Chiefs ready for toughest challenge
October 12, 2012
Richard Baxter is excited about facing Leinster this weekend © Getty Images
Richard Baxter will achieve what he describes as "the pinnacle of my career" when Exeter make their Heineken Cup debut on Saturday
The Chiefs could hardly face a tougher tournament baptism - holders Leinster away from home - but No.8 Baxter believes it is a challenge Exeter must embrace.
"Isn't this what you want to be doing, playing for a successful club and in big games throughout the year?" he said. "To play in the Heineken Cup will be the pinnacle of my career, and to play in games like these is fantastic."
Leinster, bidding for a European title hat-trick this term, and French challengers Clermont Auvergne are expected to take the top two spots in Pool Five - only the winners are guaranteed qualification - but Exeter and Welsh challengers the Scarlets cannot be written off.
Exeter warmed up for Europe by scoring more than 40 points against Aviva Premiership champions Harlequins last weekend, and Baxter added: "That was right up there among my greatest wins in an Exeter shirt.
"We had a bunch of guys out there who put in a massive effort and work-rate and did their jobs really well. The more you progress as a club, the more you have to use your squad to its full potential, and that game showed we have got guys who can step in and do a very good job."
Exeter head coach Rob Baxter insists the Chiefs will "go for it" against reigning European champions Leinster in Dublin after a terrific start to the Aviva Premiership.
He said: "We are slightly above where we targeted in the Premiership given the fixtures we have had. That is pretty good since we've played all of the top four teams from last season. We are working hard to establish ourselves in the Premiership, and we've tended to do well in big, difficult circumstances.
"Now I've got to hope again that this weekend brings the best out of us. We will enjoy the experience and we will come out of it a better team. We'll approach Leinster in a similar manner to the Harlequins game. There is no point saying we will go there, kick the ball behind them and see if we can defend for 80 minutes.
"We will only get better as a side if we enjoy the 80 minutes - that is the only way to improve. I don't think it's giving our game-plan away to say we will go for it, because that is what we intend to do."
The Heineken Cup starts on Friday night with last season's beaten finalists Ulster hosting Castres in Pool Four, while the Ospreys open Pool Two against Liberty Stadium visitors Treviso.
Exeter in Dublin apart, Saturday's action sees Clermont hosting the Scarlets as well as Pool One encounters between Edinburgh and Saracens and Racing Metro and Munster, plus two Pool Three fixtures - Quins against Biarritz and Connacht at home to Zebre.
Former Bath fly-half Olly Barkley is set to start for Racing at Stade de France, while Munster welcome back Ireland and Lions lock Paul O'Connell from injury for his first appearance in more than five months.
"We've always maintained that Paul would be back when he felt he was ready. I think it's great for us," Munster coach Rob Penney said. "It is great for Irish rugby, for the rugby community, to see a player of his calibre back playing again. It was a gradual process, but, in the interests of the player, it had to be."
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