Exeter Chiefs coach Rob Baxter wants his side to rise to the challenges set against European giants Leinster
Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter believes Saturday’s mouth-watering Heineken Cup clash with Leinster at Sandy Park is a great fixture for the supporters to enjoy (6pm).
Leinster have won the competition in the past two seasons, and in three of the past four.
They are full of British Lions stars and Ireland internationals, including Brian O’Driscoll and Rob Kearney, and need to win the game to keep their title defence alive.
Exeter produced a superb performance to only lose 9-6 to them in Dublin in October, but they go into this weekend’s game off the back of a numbing 46-3 defeat at Clermont Auvergne last Saturday.
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Baxter said: “It is a fantastic fixture for our supporters. They have been with us through thick and thin.
“There have been plenty of highs, and a few lows, and I think Leinster coming to Sandy Park is a wonderful fixture for everybody.
“All I am going to challenge the players with this week is, ‘It was tough at Clermont, what did we learn from it?’ How are we going to put that into practice against Leinster, who themselves went to Clermont and lost a pretty tight game.
“What can we do to learn from last Saturday? How are we going to get better and become a more complete Heineken Cup side and a more complete Premiership side?
“Those are the questions we have to ask ourselves, and we have to work hard to find the answers.
“There is no magic wand, you have just got to get on with it and work very hard and be able to take the rough with the smooth, and last Saturday was a little bit of the rough.”
Leinster’s only hope of reaching the Heineken Cup quarter-finals is to finish as one of the best two runners-up in the six pools, with Clermont having already won Pool Five.
Leinster are currently in joint third spot, in terms of those second-placed team rankings, with Irish arch-rivals Munster on 15 points, behind Montpellier on 18 and Leicester on 16.
Leicester entertain Toulouse on Saturday and Montpellier play host to Toulon in huge matches that will decide the winners in their respective groups, but Leinster really need to get a bonus-point win over Exeter to maintain their hopes of progress in the competition.
Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt said: “It is going to be tough next weekend against Exeter. They are a well-coached outfit and a very strong group that all play for each other.
“We still need a miracle, we still need a win and need to hope that things go our way elsewhere, but Exeter are going to be a tough side to beat.”
Baxter, who over the weekend was linked with a coaching job on England’s tour to Argentina next summer, with Andy Farrell and Graham Rowntree otherwise engaged with the British and Irish Lions, said: “It will be a big challenge for us, and standing in front of them when they are coming at us will be a great experience for us.”
Exeter picked up several injuries last Saturday, with centre Phil Dollman, lock Aly Muldowney and wing Gonzalo Camacho all forced off the field, while one or two other players soldiered on until the end of the game, despite picking up knocks.
“We need to assess our injury situation over the next few days and learn some lessons from last Saturday,” said Baxter.
“As a coaching staff, we will have a really good look at the game and digest what happened, but it was not all negative.
“We had some big ball carries out there, we had some big tackles, we had some big scrums and some great line-outs as well. It was not just a catalogue of errors.
“It was a tough place to go and play and we have learned some tough lessons.”