Rob Baxter believes Sunday’s Aviva Premiership trip to Wasps offers his side the perfect opportunity to bounce back from the disappointment of their European exit at Kingsholm last Saturday.
With just three rounds of the scheduled domestic season to play, fourth-placed Chiefs know they are within striking distance of the play-offs for the first time in their short top flight existence.
However, Baxter is well aware that for his side to achieve that objective, they must continue to produce the goods in the league, starting with this weekend’s maiden voyage to the Ricoh Arena (2pm).
Just one loss in their last six Premiership games [that was away to Leicester Tigers] has propelled Devon’s finest into unchartered waters and Baxter is determined to see how the Sandy Park outfit deal with the challenge.
Certainly, Exeter’s last league fixture showed they are in fine fettle, defeating defending champions Northampton Saints for a second time this season.
"Northampton was a big win for win," declared Baxter this week. "That said, our home form has been good all season, I think we’ve lost two at home in all competitions, so that gives you the foundations of a very good season.
"Now we have to go away from home and collect more points if you want to be up there challenging come the end of the season. As I’ve said to the guys, playing well in the Premiership doesn’t count for much unless you train well, you play well and you deliver out on the field.
"Yes, these are exciting times for all of us, but we’re also very aware that being excited doesn’t win you too much. It’s nice to be excited and have big games, but what wins you things is getting the hard work done first and foremost on the field. That is normally a strength of ours, so we just have to reinforce that strength over these last few weeks."
And for the Chiefs, part of that whole process is learning how to deal with setbacks like those faced a week ago in their European loss away to rivals Gloucester.
"I want to see us learn the lessons from last week and apply them this week," added Baxter. "It’s not often you get the chance to do that, but we are going to take every positive that we can out of the Gloucester game, work at the issues we thought we needed to, and then apply them to ourselves.
"We have not talked a huge amount about Wasps this week, it’s more about us trying to work on areas of our game that we need to address. I think if we do that, it gives us every chance to take something from the game."
Indeed, reviewing last week’s European semi-final, Baxter highlighted that there were plenty of positives to take from his side’s showing – and that must be the catalyst for a big display this weekend in the Midlands.
"There were huge positives last week," said Baxter. "If you think of how our season has been going, with 20 minutes left we are the team with huge momentum and just a point down, but then the game swung massively on a scrum decision that had us defending our line, when it could have been the other way round with a different decision, sometimes you have to take that on the chin.
"Ultimately, what you have to do is look at yourselves and ask what did we have to do to rip that game away from Gloucester? If we’re honest, we certainly didn’t do enough to do that.
"When you go away from home you have to be more than just good enough, you have to much more than that and it’s something we know we will have to be better at this weekend."
Team news for the Chiefs sees Byron McGuigan come in at full-back for Phil Dollman, who has been unable to shake off the leg injury he sustained during the first half of last week’s game. On the bench, Damian Welch is fit again after minor surgery on his ankle and replaces Academy youngster Sam Skinner, whilst hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie also returns at the expense of Elvis Taione.
Other than that, it’s a familiar feel to the Exeter line-up as they look to record yet another Premiership double this season.
CHIEFS SIDE TO FACE WASPS
15 Byron McGuigan
14 Ian Whitten
13 Jack Nowell
12 Sam Hill
11 Matt Jess
10 Henry Slade
9 Will Chudley
1 Ben Moon
2 Jack Yeandle
3 Tomas Francis
4 Dean Mumm (capt)
5 Mitch Lees
6 Dave Ewers
7 Kai Horstmann
8 Thomas Waldrom
16 Luke Cowan-Dickie
17 Carl Rimmer
18 Alex Brown
19 Damian Welch
20 Tom Johnson
21 Dave Lewis
22 Gareth Steenson
23 Tom James