Ambitious Dollman craves Chiefs victory
Exeter Chiefs back Phil Dollman says this weekend's Aviva Premiership fixture at London Irish is crucial to his club's ambitions this season.
Dollman, who joined Chiefs in 2008, agreed a new deal at Sandy Park this week. The Welshman cited the Chiefs' prospects for Heineken Cup rugby as a key motivator for him over the coming years.
And if they are to meet that ambition, the Devon club must strive to earn a significant number of league points in this busy period of the campaign.
Dollman said: "Every Premiership game is massive. The way we have started the season means we have given ourselves a good foundation to build on.
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"This weekend is now crucial in pushing on towards the top spots in the league. This period over Christmas and January is massive in terms of getting points on the board."
Dollman is back in the starting line-up this weekend after stepping aside for the recent LV= Cup games against London Welsh and Ospreys.
His motivation to help the club retain its place in the Heineken Cup – by maintaining a top-six position in the Premiership – remains strong.
He said: "That first game in the Heineken Cup this season was something that we did well to achieve and it shows how we have progressed as a side. When we first came up into the Premiership it was a great achievement for us but the Heineken Cup is where every player wants to be.
"Personally, I just want to keep doing well and keep pushing for the first team.
"I want to be playing Heineken Cup rugby and this is the place where we can achieve that regularly and be one of the top sides in England, challenging the best teams in Europe."
Having those long-term ambitions means their focus on London Irish must not waver. The Chiefs have yet to win away in the league all season and have failed on two previous visits to Irish.
Dollman said: "We just need our intensity to match whatever they throw at us. They have got quality and they always have had that across their squad.
"They are going to test us and we need to match it and, hopefully, our patterns and defence will look after itself and we can get the result."
The Chiefs have been boosted by Tom Johnson's early return from England duty. The flanker was released by head coach Stuart Lancaster this week following last weekend's Autumn Test loss to Australia.
However, Johnson will have to settle for a place on the replacements' bench this weekend, despite Dollman reporting his good form in training this week.
"It has been business as usual with Tom," said Dollman. "There has been a bit of banter and that brings him straight back down to earth.
"It is good to have him back in the squad and training with us as well. He is a good guy to have around."
Elsewhere in the side, the Chiefs welcome back a large percentage of those players who sat out the last two weeks. One who remains from the LV= Cup squad, however, is youngster Jack Nowell, who will make his first-ever Premiership start on the right wing.
The Cornishman takes over from Argentinian wing Gonzalo Camacho, who is away on international duty. Prop Hoani Tui joins Johnson on the bench alongside Fijian Sireli Naqelevuki.
Exeter Chiefs: Arscott; Nowell, Dollman, Shoemark, Jess; Steenson, Thomas; Sturgess Whitehead, Rimmer; Hayes (capt), Hanks; Mumm, Scaysbrook, Baxter. Replacements: Alcott, Moon, Tui, Muldowney, Johnson, Barrett, Mieres, Naqelevuki.