Hepher says league is Chiefs' main focus
Their preparation may have perfect, but Exeter Chiefs assistant coach Ali Hepher insists his side will have to be on top of their game to beat Worcester Warriors at Sandy Park today.
The Devon club have come through the first two weeks of their Heineken Cup campaign in good shape.
They currently top Pool Two, leading the group ahead of champions Toulon after beating Cardiff Blues and taking a losing bonus point from last weekend's trip to Glasgow Warriors.
But as exciting as Europe's top competition can be, Hepher insists the Premiership is most important to the Chiefs. And their preparation for this weekend has been all he hoped for.
He said: "Our priority has always been the Premiership. The Heineken Cup has been a real bonus for us, not that we haven't taken it seriously.
"We put in two cracking performances in the Heineken Cup. Glasgow are a tough side, they are top of the RaboDirect and we expected it to be difficult.
"The weather conditions were different to the Cardiff game and that meant we had to change our game plan.
"The guys did 95 per cent of it right and we put a lot of pressure on Glasgow and you have to say fair play to them.
"We have got a few tweaks to make on it but we were generally pleased with the performance. We know what our bread and butter is – and that's the Premiership.
"It is quite exciting to get back into it. There are opportunities within the league, with a couple of good performances, we can really push on up the table.
"Our preparation has been perfect so far, we have put in a lot of hours looking at [Worcester] and making sure we are well-prepared for the weekend.
"The message to the players has been that we have to be right on top of our game to get a result this week."
Pushing up the table will also be a priority for the visitors, who are still winless at the bottom of the Premiership table.
However, they have players who know Chiefs well from previous spells at the club such as John Andress, Danny Gray, Josh Drauniniu, Josh Matavesi and, most recently, Ignacio Mieres.
"When you look at Worcester's side, it has got quality right the way through it. They are going to come good, there's no question about that," said Hepher. "I don't think we've spent too much time worrying about Mieres' kicking ability here.
"He obviously knows how to kick here and he is a very good player, but you get that week in and week out at this level – Leigh Halfpenny was the last person here against us." Chiefs have made three changes to their starting line-up with Brett Sturgess returning at loosehead in place of Ben Moon, while Jack Yeandle gets the nod at hooker over Chris Whitehead, and Fetu'u Vainikolo takes over on the wing from Ian Whitten, who is nursing a hamstring pull sustained in the first half against Glasgow.
Vainikolo's promotion from the bench means that Welshman Tom James is recalled to first-team duty having recovered from an ankle injury sustained a fortnight ago.
Exeter Chiefs: Dollman; Vainikolo, Shoemark, Hill, Jess; Steenson, Lewis; Sturgess, Yeandle, Tui; Mumm (capt), Welch; Johnson, White, Ewers. Replacements: Whitehead, Moon, Brown, Armand, Horstmann, Thomas, Slade, James.