Exeter Chiefs have nothing to lose, says Rob Baxter
Exeter Chiefs have nothing to lose and everything to gain from today's Heineken Cup match against Clermont Auvergne, according to head coach Rob Baxter.
Few give Baxter's men more than an outsider's chance of beating the French Top 14 side, who currently lead Pool Five by eight points from title-holders Leinster.
Chiefs' recent form in the Aviva Premiership, where they have narrowly missed out on victories in their last three games against Gloucester, Bath and Northampton Saints, has also tempered thoughts of an upset at Stade Marcel Michelin.
However, Baxter said: "It probably is one of the toughest away fixtures we have ever had, but that is a great experience. They are unbeaten at home in their last 53 games but what is the Heineken Cup for if it isn't about this kind of experience?
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"We have talked about it and it creates a fantastic opportunity. People could be talking about this game for a long time if we win it. If we lose, it will be what everybody expects."
Baxter and his staff have reviewed the footage of their 46-12 defeat to Clermont at Sandy Park in October. It was a flattering scoreline for the visitors, who took advantage of Chiefs' misfortune in the second half.
Baxter said: "When we controlled possession, we looked dangerous. We've looked the game again in detail this week and for the first 50 minutes, we were in control of a huge amount of what happened.
"The try that really turned the momentum of the game came in a rather strange way with a ball shooting out of the side of a ruck and it allowed them a clear run in down the blindside.
"That hurt us and we didn't recover quickly. Ultimately, we finished the game with two injuries to scrum-halves and we didn't have 15 men on the pitch, with people in recognised positions.
"We know we were competitive against them, but when we lost our momentum they became very dangerous. There are elements that we have focused on since then and we know what we have to do.
"A lot of teams have probably gone over and known what they have to do and have still come unstuck, so there is definitely an element of us just getting in their faces and trying to break what they do up as well as trying to force our game plan on them."
Scrum-half Haydn Thomas left the field with a head injury during last Saturday's loss to Saints and will be replaced by Kevin Barrett.
Jason Shoemark returns at centre for Ian Whitten, while skipper Tom Hayes is reinstated to the second row at the expense of Australian international Dean Mumm.
Exeter Chiefs: Arscott; Camacho, Dollman, Shoemark, Jess; Steenson, Barrett; Moon, Clark, Tui; Hayes (capt), Hanks; Johnson, Scaysbrook, Baxter. Replacements: Yeandle, Rimmer, Mitchell, Muldowney, Mumm, Chudley, Mieres, Whitten.