Plenty of motivation for Exeter Chiefs as Bath come calling
MOTIVATION certainly won't be lacking for Exeter Chiefs when they tackle Bath this weekend in front of a capacity crowd at Sandy Park.
As well as the desire to perform well in front of their own supporters in a festive full house, head coach Rob Baxter hopes the players use some of the frustration from their 18-16 defeat at Gloucester last weekend to drive them on.
In addition, there is the challenge of trying to beat Bath for the first time in the Aviva Premiership at the sixth attempt.
And Baxter hopes the longer-term goal of being in the mix for a semi-final place at the end of the campaign will also act as a spur as Exeter start the second half of the league season.
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"It should be a great occasion, it's been a sell-out for quite a while now," Baxter told Echo Sport.
"These local Christmas derbies are the best atmospheres of the season – not only are they big crowds but people are there to celebrate and have a good time.
"We have to get the crowd involved, play in a way that they want to get behind and get them cheering the guys on.
"We're hunting something very positive, a first win against Bath, and that's what we'll talk about.
"I've always said what's happening at Exeter has to be a relatively long-term thing and it's important to get a group of people learning from different experiences and different challenges and knocking them off one at a time.
"It doesn't matter when you knock them off, you've just got to keep knocking them off on a fairly regular basis.
"Beating Bath is one of the things we need to knock off down the line. Whether it's this weekend or another time, who knows? But what we've got to do is keep getting better and make sure, down the line, we are making things happen."
Baxter felt his side played well at Kingsholm last weekend and deserved to get more than a losing bonus point.
With some irritation over a few refereeing decisions, the Sandy Park supremo hopes his players channel that into Saturday's game against Bath and next weekend's visit of Northampton.
Baxter said: "We were determined after the game on Saturday to make sure a loss away from home wouldn't be a defining moment in our season, that it would be a driver that would push us on and make us desperate to play well in the next few games.
"We have to use that bit of frustration to increase any motivation we may need to play Bath, but I know the players are raring to go.
"As they're our bogey side, things are in our favour because sooner or later we are going to beat them. All we have to do is go out there, stick to what we say we're going to do, keep pushing forward and that win will come.
"We always said these three games (against Gloucester, Bath and Northampton) could be three games that help us keep the end of the season really exciting. I still believe that.
"I hope the motivation for the players are the rewards down the line if they perform well now. I'd rather that was the motivation rather than the one-off thing of beating Bath – that's just a nice extra."
Baxter should have Tom Johnson (shoulder) and Phil Dollman (ill) available this weekend after they missed the defeat at Gloucester.
Luke Arscott should also be fit despite needing stitches in a head wound.
Gareth Steenson will also be keen to feature as he is just eight points away from clocking up 1,000 in his Exeter career.