Cardiff Blues v Exeter Chiefs LV= Cup preview

Jason Shoemark will make his first competitive start for Exeter Chiefs when they tackle Cardiff Blues in Friday’s Anglo Welsh LV= Cup encounter at the Cardiff City Stadium.

Having opened their Cup account with a highly convincing 29-6 victory over Aviva Premiership rivals London Wasps last Saturday, the Chiefs will be looking to follow that up against Dai Young’s Welsh outfit, who themselves lost their opening game 29-19 away to Bath.

The Chiefs, however, will make the trip to the Principality brimming with confidence following back-to-back victories over Saracens and then Wasps.

Those two displays have been among the pick of the season so far and it has left head coach Rob Baxter will plenty to ponder during team selection this past week.

With vital Premiership encounters against Leeds Carnegie and Sale Sharks looming large on the horizon, Baxter clearly feels he needs to monitor his squad closely and after giving many of his frontline aces the week off last weekend, he restores a large percentage back into the fray for the clash against the Blues, who triumphed over the Chiefs 26-21 in a pre-season friendly at Sandy Park back in August.

Much has changed for the Devon club in the months which have followed, including the addition of several new faces into the playing ranks. Indeed, one of those captures is New Zealander Shoemark, who wasted little time in showcasing his talents to the Exeter public in a 20-minute cameo role off the bench against Wasps.

On Friday night, the 29-year-old will get his opportunity to shine from the outset as he forms a new midfield pairing alongside Welshman Phil Dollman for the Chiefs. He is one of 13 changes Baxter has made to his starting XV from last weekend, the two survivors from that encounter are flanker Andy Miller and winger Nic Sestaret, who celebrated becoming a dad for the first time earlier this week.

Shoemark admits he is relishing the chance to lay down a marker with his new club, especially with a return to Premiership action just a week away. He said: “I’ve got to be solid in defence and try to make my mark in attack. Hopefully the forwards can do their job and leave a bit of space for us backs.

“It’s obviously a huge challenge over in Cardiff – they’ll have a good side no matter who they put out. But the Premiership’s the most important thing for this club at the moment and to get into that team is the main goal for me.

“Friday’s game is like a trial match for the team to bring out the starting 15 for the Premiership. To be involved in the game the following week would be awesome, but I may have to bide my time a little bit longer.”

Certainly the Chiefs faithful were impressed by what that saw off Shoemark last time out and the player himself admits he has settled in well to life at Sandy Park.

“It was a tough week last week, especially getting used to the time zone and having the kids running around at 3am, ” he said. “But this week I’ve settled in well. The boys are awesome, they’re all good jokers and decent guys so hopefully it’s going to be a good 18 months for me.”

However, one man set to sit out on Friday and for the next few weeks is Neil Clark, who is sidelined with a knee injury he picked up in the win at Saracens. Others such as Bryan Rennie, Andrew Higgins and James Scaysbrook are also being given the night off as Baxter does not want to risk players who are not 100 per cent fit.

“We’re monitoring Clarky week by week at the moment and as for the other lads, they have just got bumps and bruises and we’ve decided not to push them through this week,” explained Baxter. “We could probably have pushed everybody through, but we want to make sure everybody is 100 per cent fit if we can.

“The guys who came in last week put their hands up and almost demanded selection, so if you’ve got a choice between a guy who played exceptionally well or a guy who hasn’t play

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