Rob Baxter wants Exeter Chiefs to learn from past mistakes on trip to Saracens
Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter hopes the disappointment of Exeter Chiefs' Aviva Premiership defeat to Sale Sharks will drive them to success at Saracens this afternoon.
The Devon club have not won a top-flight game since beating London Wasps in December. However, last weekend's loss at the Salford City Stadium was more frustrating than most.
"We are still a little bit disappointed by what happened against Sale," said Baxter.
"It probably just comes from the fact we lost our way a little bit, not from a lack of wanting to win the game or a lack of physicality, just a lack of composure and individuals just trying a bit too hard.
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"The game was not getting away from us, but we felt it was and we made some fundamental mistakes, giving away some silly penalties and the momentum of the game changed.
"That is for us to deal with and we faced it very openly and honestly this week.
"I'm very confident that none of the issues were anything other than guys desperate to do well."
Baxter identified back-row forward Kai Horstmann as one such individual, but the former Worcester Warrior has been forgiven and will make his first start for the club this weekend.
Baxter said: "Kai Horstmann has been waiting for over half a season to have an impact and sometimes that can manifest itself in negative ways.
"He was desperate to make an impression and made one the wrong way. It was the same for Ben White. He has been desperate to play and prove himself and when his opportunity has come along, sometimes his intensity flashes itself in different ways.
"Similarly that happened to one or two other players. I haven't got any issues with that. We have to mature through that and face it openly. These things happen and we just have to make sure we learn from it and become a better team.
"First and foremost, we have got to be realistic. We got a losing bonus point away from home in the Premiership and they not the easiest of things to get.
"Away from that, for most of the match we looked like the team that were going to win the game. We are aware of the positives – we created lots of opportunities and could have won the game by so many points, but we didn't.
"We have to face the reasons why and it is by doing that, that we get better. No one has run away from anything or tried to hide away. The guys who made mistakes have held their hands up.
"They are good guys and that is why they are here. I am very confident they will learn from it."
Today's game will see Sharks playing on their 4G surface at their new, state-of-the-art Allianz Park home for the first time. Baxter said his side have made no special plans during the week to take the playing surface into account.
"We haven't used our [artificial] rubber crumb pitch any more or less than normal," he said.
"Our planning goes season-long and not so much week by week. We have prepared for this game, just like we would any other in terms of the detail and analysis of Saracens.
"As regard to surfaces, I think theirs is more like a playing field anyway compared to our rubber crumb. We have talked about it being a bit of a one-off occasion. We know it will be quite dry and fast and obviously not muddy – I think if that suits any team in the Premiership, it should suit us."
Baxter has made four changes this weekend. Damian Welch joins Horstmann in making his first league start for Chiefs. No.8 Richard Baxter moves across the back-row to replace Ben White at flanker. Ian Whitten comes in at centre in a place of Sireli Naqelevuki and Matt Jess takes over on the wing for Watisoni Votu.
Exeter Chiefs: Arscott; Nowell, Whitten, Shoemark, Jess; Steenson, Chudley; Moon, Clark, Tui; Mumm, Welch; Baxter (capt), Scaysbrook, Horstmann. Replacements: Yeandle, Rimmer, Brown, Hayes, Muldowney, Thomas, Mieres, Dollman.