European wins have aided Chiefs’ belief
By Bill Sobey
Exeter Chiefs prop Brett Sturgess says the club’s first victories in the Heineken Cup will enable them to tackle a challenging Aviva Premiership return to Kingsholm with confidence.
The Chiefs have won their past seven games in all competitions but their last two, in the Heineken Cup against Scarlets, created history for the Devon club.
Their back-to-back wins over the Welsh RaboDirect Pro 12 side were landmark achievements in the Chiefs’ debut season in European rugby’s top competition.
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Those wins ensure they return to Premiership action on Saturday with confidence.
Sturgess said: “It feels like we are creating history for the club every time we are in the Heineken Cup at the moment.
“We wanted our first Heineken Cup win and that happened last week away, but then we wanted to back it up at home.
“The big matches just keep coming thick and fast at the minute and it is key that we got some good performances from those two games in Europe.
“We are winning but I still think we can play better, and that is a good thing. We have got momentum going into this next block of Premiership games.
“Gloucester are a form side in the Premiership and just above us in the league. It is very close in the league and a win can put you right up amongst it.
“We go to Gloucester buoyed by the wins against Scarlets and we are confident because we know we can play even better. If we do that and perform at our best, who knows what can happen?”
That sentiment extends to the final outcome of Pool Five of the Heineken Cup.
The Chiefs face reigning champions Leinster at Sandy Park on January 19, before travelling to Clermont Auvergne the following week.
Victories in both, with a bonus point or two, would give them an outside chance of progressing to the knock-out stages of the competition.
Sturgess said: “Why not? We have put ourselves in a good position going into the last two games. Next up is the current Heineken Cup holders coming to Sandy Park. To welcome them here is another step for us as a club. We fear nobody.
“We have to play well because we know there are threats all over the pitch against teams like that. The following week, we go to Clermont, who are probably the team to beat in this competition. That will be another fantastic occasion for the club.”
Three crucial games stand between Exeter and their return to the Heineken Cup.
After their journey to Kingsholm, the Chiefs have two homes games against Bath, whom they have never beaten in the Premiership, and Northampton Saints. “We need to get that monkey off our back and beat Bath,” Sturgess said. “It is always great around Christmas time, it will probably be a full house for the home games.”