Chiefs ready to conquer Europe
CHAMPIONS CUP SPOTLIGHT: Exeter Chiefs have tasted success on the domestic front. Now they are keen on replicating it on as more global scale.
Premiership winners in 2017, Exeter now have their sights set on conquering Europe – after winning all four of their Champions Cup group matches to date.
The Chiefs need just one more point to qualify for the play-offs – which will be only their second appearance in the quarterfinals.
Chiefs coach Ali Hepher believes they are ready to challenge for higher honours.
“Yes, we’ve been in that position for a couple of years,” Hepher said in an interview on the club website.
“It’s just been little things – the odd fixture, the odd slip up here and there – that has cost us and probably more than anything it’s been our home form.
“The reality is we’ve picked up good wins on the road, but we’ve lost home games – to Gloucester and Leinster, and we drew with Munster last year – which put us on the back foot.
“That’s been a big focus for us this year and we were pleased with home wins over Glasgow and Sale.
“Having been involved in the European Cup as a player, you’ve got to keep backing up your wins and target the next game.
“There are no games where you can ease off because you can put yourself out of certain situations like home quarterfinals or top seedings, so there’s still plenty to play for in our last two group fixtures against Glasgow and La Rochelle in the New Year.”
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The English club top Pool Two, having taken 19 out of a possible 20 points, and have two games to claim the point that will put them in the last eight – a Round Five tie at Glasgow Warriors on Saturday and a home game against La Rochelle on January 18.
However, Hepher insists the Chiefs still have much to do and will be looking to improve on their 45-28 win at London Irish at the weekend, which kept them at the top of the Gallagher Premiership.
“If you look around, lots of sides have been collecting points,” Hepher told the Exeter website.
“What we have to do is pick up as many as we can.
“Even if you drop one game, you are not exactly safe. That’s why it’s important we are on it again next week.
“The challenge for us is not only to top our pool, but also fight to get that home quarterfinal.”
They will be up against a Warriors team fresh from a 38-19 Guinness PRO14 victory at Benetton Rugby last weekend, but which Glasgow player/coach Petrus du Plessis said contained a few too many tries for comfort over the Warriors’ line.
“We’ll take a look and learn from them going into Exeter next weekend,” Du Plessis told the Glasgow website.
“We will take lots of positives from this, but Exeter are a well-drilled side and we’ll need to step up again this weekend if we are to walk away with the win.”
Sources: @ExeterChiefs & @ChampionsCup