White hopes it will be all right on the night against Tigers
Ben White is relishing the “massive challenge” the Exeter Chiefs face when they take on defending Premiership champions Leicester Tigers at Sandy Park on Sunday.
The Tigers are in second place in the table after their convincing 31-6 home victory over newly-promoted Newcastle Falcons last Saturday.
The Midlanders were able to welcome a host of British and Irish Lions and England stars back from injury for that game, including Toby Flood, Ben Youngs, Manu Tuilagi and Geoff Parling, and a wonderful spectacle is in prospect this weekend.
White will also be coming up against his fellow Australian back-row and good friend Julian Salvi, who was a former team-mate of his at Super Rugby outfit ACT Brumbies.
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“The Tigers are an amazing team and we need to step up a gear and have a real go at them,” said White, who joined the Chiefs in 2011 after five years with RaboDirect Pro12 side Cardiff Blues.
“It was great to back up our win over Wasps with victory at London Irish. We don’t want to go on a roller-coaster up and down. We want to keep going up and up and up, and we took another step forward on Saturday.
“The Premiership is the hardest competition and four points is awesome and should help push us up the table.”
Exeter had to work hard for their victory – the second year running they had won at the Madejski Stadium. They trailed 10-9 at the interval, with penalties and turnovers costing dear, and then conceded 13 points after in-form Welsh wing Tom James had been sin-binned early in the second half.
“I think the boys were maybe trying a bit too hard in the first half. We were just not playing smart, and maybe not respecting the ball as much as we should have been,” explained 29-year-old White.
“Penalties are crucial, and we have just got to sharpen up on that for this weekend against Leicester.
“Then we lost Tom James, and that hit us hard, because Tom Johnson had to drop to the backs, and then Irish had a couple of good scrums, and put us under pressure.”
However, when Irish had replacement prop John Yapp sin-binned by referee Andrew Small for repeated infringement in the red zone by his side, it was Exeter’s turn to capitalise on an extra man, as they scored 14 points while the Welshman was off the field.
“The boys were playing for each other, we put all the stuff together, had a couple of good scrums, a couple of good phases and it worked out for us,” said White.
Exeter grabbed two tries in that period, with skipper Dean Mumm getting the first from a catch-and-drive line-out, and White the second after a close-range scrum.
“It was a great scrum by the boys, a great pick by Tom Johnson, and the ball popped up to me, and I will take that one,” explained White about his third Premiership try.
The Irish game saw White make his first start of the season for the Chiefs after head coach Rob Baxter was forced into a reshuffle of his back row, after No.8 Dave Ewers tweaked his hamstring.
Johnson moved to the base of the scrum, and White came in at blindside flanker, but, with the Chiefs hopeful that Ewers might be fit to face the Tigers, Baxter could face a tough selection call.
Commenting on White’s performance, Baxter said: “Ben came in for us and had a really good game and scored a very important try for us, and worked very hard.”
One of White’s three Premiership tries came in the 30-8 defeat against Leicester at Welford Road early last season.