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Rob Baxter set to tinker with his Exeter Chiefs side for Scarlets visit

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: December 13, 2012

Rob Baxter

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EXETER Chiefs boss Rob Baxter is tempted to freshen up his side again this weekend as they look to make it back-to-back wins against the Scarlets.

The Sandy Park outfit notched their first Heineken Cup victory last weekend when they triumphed 22-16 at the Parc y Scarlets.

And with the Llanelli-based region travelling to Devon this Saturday for the return fixture, Baxter is keen to utilise his squad.

Last time out he handed lock Damian Welch a start as he opted to rest James Hanks, while centre Phil Dollman was also given a breather as Sireli Naqelevuki partnered Jason Shoemark in the midfield.

The coach is eager to keep his players fresh as Saturday's match marks the halfway stage of the competitive season, the 16th out of 32 matches, not allowing for any knock-out games.

"In certain positions in the squad we're pretty injury-free and when that happens and you're comfortable with the guys you've got there you've got to try to keep as many guys fresh as possible," said Baxter.

"You also want to add a bit of energy to the starting line-up as well.

"We'll probably make a few more changes to the starting line-up this weekend because we're just about halfway through a Premiership season that we want to keep playing well in.

"There are quite a few games down the line that we want to go into fresh but we also want to keep improving. I don't think you necessarily do that by just wheeling out the same guys every week. Sometimes that's the right thing to do but it's important to keep the squad involved and keep the energy levels high out on the pitch."

One player who will certainly be hoping to feature is England flanker Tom Johnson, who will make his 150th competitive appearance for Exeter if he makes it onto the field.

The 30-year-old was one of six changes last weekend for the win against the Scarlets in a game that was tense until the final minute.

Baxter hopes the closeness of that contest will ensure none of his players feel complacent going into their fourth match in the pool stages of this season's European competition.

"It's going to be interesting because it's quite rare you get this situation (where you play a side two weeks in a row)," he said. "Now the battle is which side recovers the best, does the best preparation and backs it up with the best mindset on the day.

"What we've got to guard against is that edge of complacency because we won the first game but I think what will stop that is that the guys are aware it was a tough game and in the closing minutes we were the team under pressure.

"I'm hoping we'll have an enthusiasm to play well at home, a focus on what we have to do to improve and the targets we want to take into the game.

"Whoever can crank up the intensity in the rematch will win the battle."

An added bonus of picking a few different players this weekend will mean the Scarlets will know less of what to expect from the Chiefs.

However, Baxter does not intend to change the game plan too much. He simply wants his players to execute more of it better.

"There were some missed opportunities out there for us," he said. "We also want to make sure we don't allow the pressure to build on us, which was what happened in the final quarter last weekend.

"It's not so much about bringing something different but about adding a bit of accuracy and precision to two or three things we did which could give us some good rewards."

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