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Exeter v Sale: Teams
At Sandy Park, Saturday, September 1, kick-off 3.00pm
Exeter Exeter Chiefs play host to Sale Sharks at Sandy Park for their opening match of the 2012/13 Premiership season on Saturday.
And head coach Rob Baxter has selected a strong line-up to face the Sharks, who like the Chiefs, finished last season strongly to book themselves a Heineken Cup place.
Of the eight new summer signings, only Irish international Ian Whitten and scrum-half Will Chudley are included in Baxter's starting line-up.
Whitten partners the experienced Jason Shoemark in the home midfield, whilst Chudley is given a chance to impress in the absence of the injured Haydn Thomas.
Otherwise, it's a familiar looking line-up for Exeter, with Tom Hayes again skippering the side from the second row.
The Chiefs coach is well aware the visiting Sharks - buoyed by summer signings, including Danny Cipriani and Richie Gray - will be no walkover come Saturday.
But, while he is hopeful his side can continue their trend of recent years by kicking off their campaign with a win, he will not get too ruffled should things not go his way.
"We're looking forward to it," he said. "That is what it's all about at the end of the day. It's exciting, nerve-wracking, wonderful and horrible all at the same time.
"Obviously getting off to a flyer is great because it takes the pressure off," said Baxter. "However, it's not the end of the world if you're not winning in those first few weeks.
"We know that it's a long season and that there are plenty of points to play for throughout the year.
"We had a spell last season where we won a number of games on the bounce and all of a sudden your points total is flying.
"So for me the most important thing is that we are a side that is as competitive as possible every time we play."
Corne Uys and Gray are set to make their debuts for Sale in the clash, while Cipriani could also make his first appearance for his new club if he comes off the bench.
Like his counterpart, Sharks' director of rugby Bryan Redpath also knows that his side's trip south will certainly be no walk in the park.
Sale have lost their last three encounters with Baxter's men including a comprehensive 37-12 defeat on their last meeting at Sandy Park.
"Nobody's hiding from the fact how tough the Chiefs are down there," said Redpath. "Last year's performance at Sandy Park wasn't good enough and Sale Sharks suffered.
"The key thing is that we travel South West with a clear mindset of what we need to do. We have to turn up with our A1 game to compete down there.
"Exeter will be red hot favourites to win because they don't often lose at home, so we've nothing to lose and will give it our best shot."
Exeter: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Josh Tatupu, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Jason Shoemark, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Ignacio , Mieres, 9 Will Chudley, 1 Brett Sturgess, 2 Chris Whitehead, 3 Craig Mitchell, 4 Tom Hayes (capt), 5 Aly Muldowney, 6 Tom Johnson, 7 James Scaysbrook, 8 Richard Baxter.
Replacements: 16 Simon Alcott, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Chris Budgen, 19 James Hanks, 20 James Phillips, 21 Kevin Barrett, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Luke Arscott.
Sale: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Will Addison, 13 Johnny Leota, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11.Corne Uys, 10 Nick Macleod, 9 Dwayne Peel, 1 Eifion Lewis-Roberts, 2 Joe Ward, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 4 Richie Gray, 5 Fraser McKenzie, 6 James Gaskell, 7 David Seymour (capt.), 8 Andy Powell.
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Tony Buckley, 19 Kearnan Myall, 20 Richie Vernon, 21 Cillian Willis, 22 Danny Cipriani, 23 Jordan Davies.
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Aviva Premiership Table
|Friday 5th September|
|19:45||Northampton vs Gloucester|
|Saturday 6th September|
|14:00||Sale vs Bath|
|14:00||Saracens vs Wasps|
|15:00||Leicester vs Newcastle|
|16:30||London Irish vs Harlequins|
|Sunday 7th September|
|14:00||London Welsh vs Exeter|
|Friday 12th September|
|19:45||Harlequins vs Saracens|
|Saturday 13th September|
|15:00||Gloucester vs Sale|
|15:00||Bath vs London Welsh|
|15:15||Exeter vs Leicester|
|Sunday 14th September|
|14:00||Wasps vs Northampton|
|15:00||Newcastle vs London Irish|
|Friday 19th September|
|19:45||Gloucester vs Exeter|
|Saturday 20th September|
|14:00||Sale vs London Welsh|
|15:00||Harlequins vs Wasps|
|15:00||London Irish vs Saracens|
|15:15||Bath vs Leicester|
|Sunday 21st September|
|14:00||Newcastle vs Northampton|
|Friday 26th September|
|19:45||London Welsh vs Gloucester|
|Saturday 27th September|
|15:00||Leicester vs London Irish|
|15:00||Saracens vs Sale|
|15:15||Northampton vs Bath|
|Sunday 28th September|
|14:00||Wasps vs Newcastle|
|14:00||Exeter vs Harlequins|
|Friday 3rd October|
|19:45||Bath vs Saracens|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com