Exeter Chiefs must play better than at Leicester if they are to defeat Harlequins, says Rob Baxter
Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter admitted his side would have to produce a much-improved performance if they are to stand a chance of upsetting Aviva Premiership champions Harlequins at Sandy Park on Saturday.
The Chiefs endured a difficult day in the Midlands last weekend, going down 30-8 to a Leicester Tigers team beaten by the Quins in last season's Premiership final at Twickenham.
Quins suffered a setback themselves on Sunday, as their unbeaten record disappeared with a shock 18-16 home defeat to Saracens, who Exeter beat 14-12 the previous weekend at Sandy Park.
It saw Harlequins lose top spot in the table to Northampton Saints, and they will be keen to quickly get back to winning ways on Saturday before the two-week break for the opening rounds of the Heineken Cup.
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"If they look at our performance at Leicester, they will probably fancy coming down to Sandy Park and playing a bit and seeing what happens," said Baxter.
"We have got to be better, of course we have. A lot was made on Saturday about Tigers' injury issues, but we have got a few ourselves as well. I am not a big one to talk about it because I like to back the players who get on the pitch.
"Last Saturday, we had some really good performances in the team, and there will be a handful of guys who will look at their game and be really pleased with what they achieved. I don't think we had enough people doing their jobs flat out on Saturday for us. We didn't play to our potential, we were well beaten and we have just got to move on and get on with it."
Baxter said his players needed to get back to how they performed against Saracens in their last Sandy Park outing.
"We showed plenty of spirit and energy against Leicester, but it is about having that in the right directions, and we didn't quite have that on Saturday, and it is our biggest lesson to learn as a team," he said.
"We were disappointed after our defeat at London Welsh, and we followed that with a really intense training week and a really intense performance. Almost because of the Saracens game, it didn't look like our intensity was as good on Saturday as it could have been.
"Those are the lessons you have to learn over a period. Your great teams can push those levels of intensity week in and week out."
Exeter's casualty list includes long-term absentees Josh Tatupu, Craig Mitchell and James Phillips, while Hoani Tui, Kai Hortsmann and Myles Dorrian are also currently on the treatment table, but it is providing the opportunity for other players to stake a claim.
Summer signing Alex Brown, a 22-year-old tight-head prop from Doncaster Knights, made his Premiership debut against Leicester by coming on for the last three minutes, while Carl Rimmer made his full Premiership debut the previous week against Saracens.
"I thought Alex did well when he came on," said Baxter. "It is important for us to know where we stand tight-head wise going forward, with the couple of injuries we have got in that department.
"There were also parts of the game at Welford Road where Carl did well. He definitely found it tougher on Saturday than he did the previous week against Saracens, there is no doubting that, but that is the life of a tight-head.
"We still need to remember that he came to Exeter primarily as a loose-head, he is doing a fantastic job for us, he is working very hard and he will be only better for what happened on Saturday."