Quartet of games represents huge challenge for Exeter Chiefs
PROP Brett Sturgess says Exeter Chiefs' next four games represent a 'historic' chapter in the club's history.
The Sandy Park side will square off against some of the powerhouses of world club rugby in the coming weeks, starting on Saturday at Welford Road with Leicester Tigers.
The following weekend, Rob Baxter's men entertain champions Harlequins, before their first ever Heineken Cup matches against holders and top European-ranked club Leinster, and French giants Clermont Auvergne.
And 30-year-old Sturgess says he can barely contain his excitement at the mouthwatering prospect of coming up against some of the world's best.
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"If you do not get excited by the run of games coming up then you should not be playing the game," said the former Northampton Saint.
"They are huge for the club and historic for the club too because we haven't played in the Heineken Cup before.
"Playing in the Heineken Cup was what we were striving for all of last season, so now it's here we need to get stuck in and enjoy it.
"As a player, you can't help but look at the fixture list and see who you have got at certain times and in certain blocks of games.
"It was like that with the Heineken Cup draw because there was so much coverage around, and you can't help but get excited when you see the run of Heineken Cup and Premiership games we have got coming up."
Sturgess started both games against the Tigers last season, when the Chiefs recorded a memorable double with a 30-28 opening-day win at Welford Road, followed by a 19-11 victory at Sandy Park.
Unfortunately for the Kettering-born player, he sustained a broken arm in the 75th minute of the clash in Devon, following a collision with England international Manu Tuilagi.
That injury – which occurred on his 99th appearance for the Chiefs – ruled him out for two months, although he was able to return to action in the season's closing stages.
And Sturgess admits that successfully returning at the tail-end of last season assuaged any fears over his arm for the start of the current campaign.
"I came in to finish off a tackle and ended up colliding with Manu Tuilagi's head, which wasn't that fun," he said.
"But the big thing for me was that I was able to get back playing before the season ended.
"I think that, if I hadn't managed to come back, then it would have been a confidence thing because I wouldn't have known how it (the arm) would hold up.
"It wasn't like I ended the season not knowing how it would react when the new season came along – that helped."
Sturgess packed down from the start during the Chiefs' 14-12 win over Saracens on Sunday, and he believes that win gives the Chiefs an ideal platform for the trip to Leicester.
"After the loss to London Welsh it was important we got back on track against Saracens because we have big games coming thick and fast now," Sturgess said.
"Quins went there as champions and did a very good job on them (a 22-9 win at Leicester), so it's up to us now to go there and play how we want to play."