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Phil Dollman comes in at full-back for Stuart Hogg, who skippered Scotland against Italy in the Six Nations Championship in Rome; Tom Hendrickson is brought into the midfield alongside Ian Whitten, who will be making his 150th Premiership appearance; and Joe Simmonds returns from his three-game ban to take over the captaincy and No.10 role from Steenson.
On the bench, England international Alec Hepburn is back after recovering from an ankle injury; Don Armand is given the nod ahead of Matt Kvesic; while Max Bodilly fills the void left by Dollman’s elevation into the starting XV.
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Brian O’Driscoll comments on the behaviour of England boss Eddie Jones
“Sunday’s going to be interesting, particularly as it’s a top of the table clash,” said Baxter. “Like ourselves, they have got players injured and others away on international duty. They have also share the same ambitions as we do about what they want to achieve.
“For both sides it’s a big game. At the same time, it’s also a chance for us to put right some of the wrongs we feel after that last home game against Sale. We know we didn’t perform in the first half that day and for me that doesn’t feel right, especially in front of what has been outstanding home support here for a number of seasons.
“Yes, I’m still annoyed and a little bit sore about that – and I know the players feel the same. I’d like t think that come Sunday, this time we will come out firing and put that performance and that half firmly behind us.”
— Exeter Chiefs (@ExeterChiefs) February 21, 2020
Northampton boss Chris Boyd has made eight changes to his starting line-up, with scrum-half Alex Mitchell set to make his first start of the season.
Saints have not lost three league fixtures in a row under Boyd’s leadership and will be desperate to pick up a third away win of the season at Sandy Park to close the gap on Premiership pace-setters Exeter.
Mitchell returns from international duty with England to start in the No9 jersey for the first time this campaign following a lengthy injury layoff, partnering James Grayson in the half-back berths.
— Northampton Saints ? (@SaintsRugby) February 21, 2020
There are two further changes to Saints’ backline with Andy Symons coming into the midfield to join Matt Proctor, and Ahsee Tuala is selected on the wing – with Tom Collins and full-back Harry Mallinder rounding off the back three.
But Boyd has not been afraid to shuffle his pack after a frustrating defeat to Bristol last time out, as Francois van Wyk, James Fish and Paul Hill all come into the front row for the trip to Devon. Alex Coles keeps his place at lock, but Lewis Bean will pack down alongside him in the engine room with Alex Moon set for a spell on the sidelines after picking up a knee injury last weekend.
Amongst the replacements, Lewis Ludlam, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Cobus Reinach and Fraser Dingwall will all look to make an impact in the second half of the match, while lock Ben Glynn could well make his first Saints appearance off the bench after signing on at Franklin’s Gardens this week.
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