Aviva Premiership: Team news for Saturday's four fixtures

Last Updated: 22/11/13 2:23pm

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Rob Baxter: Chiefs head coach expecting a big test on Saturday

Rob Baxter: Chiefs head coach expecting a big test on Saturday

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Fourth-placed Exeter host Aviva Premiership leaders Saracens at Sandy Park on Saturday looking to underline their play-off credentials.

The Chiefs' only loss in their last six Aviva Premiership matches was 9-21 at home to Leicester in Round Four but they tasted defeat last time to Bath in the LV= Cup.

Exeter boss Rob Baxter has rewarded Jack Nowell, who was among those to impress in the 37-15 loss to Bath, with his first Premiership start of the season on the right wing.

"We know Saturday is tough fixture for us and we have great respect for Saracens," said the Chiefs' coach.

"They have a great work rate, they enjoy being together, and those are great qualities to have. Over the last few years we've had some good and tough fixtures against them, so hopefully this will be the same as we tend to do OK in these types of games."

Irishman Ian Whitten is named alongside Sam Hill in the Chiefs' midfield, with skipper Dean Mumm spearheading a powerful Exeter pack that also features in-form flanker Tom Johnson and number eight Dave Ewers.

For Saracens, England trio Chris Ashton, Alex Goode and Billy Vunipola make an immediate return to Premiership action following their autumn Test commitments.

Fly-half Owen Farrell is rested, though, while centre Joel Tomkins and prop Mako Vunipola are injured. Charlie Hodgson continues in the number 10 shirt, with lock Steve Borthwick returning as skipper.

Robshaw rested

In other action, fifth-placed Harlequins host tenth-placed Gloucester without England captain Chris Robshaw, who is rested from the line-up.

But his Test team-mates - full-back Mike Brown and loosehead prop Joe Marler - are both on starting duty. Nick Easter will captain Quins from the second-row, while internationals Nick Evans and Danny Care are reunited at half-back.

The Cherry and Whites are boosted by the return of England centre Billy Twelvetrees and his red rose colleague, number eight Ben Morgan, for their trip to the Twickenham Stoop. Morgan, Matt Kvesic and James Hudson all return up-front, while Twelvetrees, Jonny May, Charlie Sharples and Jimmy Cowan are recalled behind the scrum.

Fly-half Toby Flood returns from England duty to captain sixth-placed Leicester Tigers in their clash with strugglers London Irish.

He will be joined by Ben Youngs as his half-back partner, with Tom Youngs featuring at hooker. England prop Dan Cole is on the bench, with wing Miles Benjamin making his Premiership debut for Tigers as centre Matt Smith and prop Fraser Balmain start their first league games of the campaign.

England wing Marland Yarde, who missed the final two autumn Tests against Argentina and New Zealand because of a hip injury, returns to Irish colours at Welford Road, featuring in the back-three alongside Topsy Ojo and Australian James O'Connor. Elsewhere, captain George Skivington has recovered from a foot problem and starts, while Shane Geraghty replaces fly-half Ian Humphreys.

Northampton rugby director Jim Mallinder makes 11 changes as the second-placed Saints welcome ninth-placed Newcastle, including starts for England players Ben Foden, Lee Dickson and Courtney Lawes.

Wing Jamie Elliott and number eight Sam Dickinson have both recovered from knocks to feature, but injuries sideline hooker Dylan Hartley and flanker Tom Wood, while international calls rule out the likes of George North, Kahn Fotuali'i and Samu Manoa.

Former Scotland scrum-half Mike Blair returns for Newcastle as one of five changes following last weekend's LV= Cup defeat against Gloucester, with fly-half Phil Godman, hooker Scott Lawson, prop Oliver Tomaszczyk and lock Fraser McKenzie also starting.

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