Rob Baxter targets huge achievement for Exeter Chiefs against Leinster
Beating Leinster this afternoon would be a fantastic achievement for Exeter Chiefs, according to head coach Rob Baxter.
The Devon club already know their chances of progression from Pool Three of the Heineken Cup are gone, but they are motivated by the prospect of champions Leinster coming to Sandy Park this afternoon.
The Irish side need a win to give themselves hope of reaching the knock-out stages, so claiming victory this weekend would be a genuine scalp for the Chiefs, who have already beaten Scarlets twice in their first top-tier European campaign.
"It would be a fantastic achievement on its own," said Baxter about the possibility of winning today. "I think that would be primarily because of the pressure Leinster are under to come here and win, as well as possibly chase a bonus point. So they are going to be full-on, I think that is very good for us.
"It is the kind of scenario we want to play in. I don't want us to be playing in a dead rubber because we would learn less. Learning to cope with intensity and bring your own intensity is the big lesson for us. Leinster coming at us and going for it is probably the best scenario."
Chiefs' first season in Europe's premier competition has shown Baxter the way forward for his club. If they get another chance next season, he hopes his men can create an even bigger impression.
"The whole point of the experience is to become a little bit more comfortable with it and then you can maybe start to impose yourself on it," he said. "That is what we have to try and do as we become a little bit more comfortable.
"This has been a tough group, we've won two games out of five so far and I'd love us to be able to say we won three out of six – that would be a fantastic achievement in our first season in the Heineken Cup."
Injuries to Phil Dollman and Gonzalo Camacho force Baxter into two backs changes. Sireli Naqelevuki and Ian Whitten will both start against Leinster. Dean Mumm comes into the second row for James Hanks.
On the bench, there are recalls also for flanker Ben White and utility back Nic Sestaret.
"We got a few bumps and bruises," admitted Baxter. "Phil Dollman and Gonzalo Camacho, they are not serious injuries but they do need a little care and attention.
"They have been playing very well and give us a bit of sparkle in our back line but we've got guys like Sireli Naqelevuki and Ian Whitten, so we have some good options there. Hopefully, we'll get a good response from those guys when they come in."
Leinster can only clinch one of two best runners-up spots available in the quarter-finals, and with Munster and Montpellier among other teams also hotly contesting those places, a pool stage exit cannot be ruled out.
Tournament favourites Clermont Auvergne, who visit the Scarlets today, have already won Pool Five and Exeter now stand between Leinster and possible progress.
The Scarlets welcome back fit-again Wales wing George North against Clermont, with the visitors parading a trademark galaxy of international talent such as Lee Byrne, Aurelien Rougerie, Morgan Parra and Julien Bonnaire.
Ulster have already wrapped up Pool Four, but a bonus triumph in Castres today guarantees them a home quarter-final, with Northampton knowing they need a five-point maximum away to Glasgow in their slim quest of progressing beyond the pool stage.
Sale Sharks conclude their European campaign away to Cardiff Blues today, with both teams having failed dismally to make any impression on a group dominated by Toulon and Montpellier.
England internationals Danny Cipriani and Mark Cueto are both on bench duty for Sale, but the Blues are boosted by scrum-half Lloyd Williams' return from suspension.