Having halted Northampton Saints march at the top of the Aviva Premiership last week, Exeter Chiefs will be looking to follow that up with victory against visiting Wasps tomorrow (3pm).
A dominant first half display – which included converted tries for Luke Cowan-Dickie and Thomas Waldrom (2) – laid the foundations for the Chiefs to record a first-ever win at Franklin’s Gardens.
Exeter’s four-point haul from their trip to the East Midlands not only ensured a notable scalp for Rob Baxter’s side, but it moved the Chiefs to second in the table, just two points behind their hosts and last season’s champions.
However, as Baxter readies his troops for their latest battle this weekend, the Chiefs leader has warned his team need to find a consistency within their performances if they want to remain firmly fixed in the division’s top four.
"The truth is I’m a little concerned going into this weekend," said Baxter. "History has shown this season that we haven’t bounced through good performances very well. By that I mean, our last victory against a top four, top five side was Harlequins, yet we then followed it up with one of our poorer performances when we went to Newcastle the following week
"History has shown when we have put a lot of effort and a lot of emotion into a game, we haven’t backed it up. We’ve talked a lot about that this week and it’s now vital we back last week up with another great performance this weekend. Last week was a very important four points for us, so now we have to make it count – and the only way you do that is by winning the next game."
Baxter added: "This is where we want to be, so every time we win the next game becomes bigger and bigger. This game against Wasps is a huge game because it gives us a chance to stay in that top four for another weekend and keep trying to pull away from other teams.
"A big win last week creates a big opportunity this week and we’ve got to be prepared to play in a way that takes that. You can’t just get through a week and think your training’s gone well and then turn up and think it’s going to be okay if you perform okay. To beat Wasps we’re going to have to perform very well and we’ve got to prepare for a real battle here on Saturday.
"Our battle as a developing Premiership team is how does the Quins performance or how does the Northampton performance become more like the norm rather than something you get every now and again. That’s what the top four teams do very well."
Wasps themselves will head to Devon brimming with confidence after they thumped winless London Welsh 71-7 in their last-ever outing at Adams Park last Sunday.
Dai Young’s team ran in 11 tries during the one-sided encounter, including try hat-tricks for winger Christian Wade and back-row forward Ashley Johnson. Both men are expected to feature tomorrow and Baxter says his players will need to be on their guard.
"Wasps obviously feel pretty confident with the way they’re playing. They’ve got a good squad and have a lot of them fit and are not unduly burdened by internationals being away," said Baxter.
"They’ll be pretty confident that they’re in good form and the way they played against London Welsh will have them in good spirits.
"It’s going to be a challenge against Wasps but we’ve played well against them in the past – we don’t have a bad record against them – and have tended to start well and put them under pressure. We’ve got to have that focus again right from the start this weekend."
Not surprisingly, Baxter sticks with an almost unchanged match-day squad for Saturday’s showdown. The sole change comes in the pack where Dave Ewers – returns after missing last week’s win at Northampton Saints – he comes in at blindside flanker for Ben White.
The game will also mark the 100th league appearance for full-back Phil Dollman, who earlier this week committed his future to the Chiefs by agreeing a new two-year deal.
CHIEFS SIDE TO FACE WASPS
15 Phil Dollman
14 Jack Nowell
13 Henry Slade
12 Sam Hill
11 Matt Jess
10 Gareth Steenson
9 Will Chudley
1 Carl Rimmer
2 Luke Cowan-Dickie
3 Tomas Francis
4 Dean Mumm (capt)
5 Damian Welch
6 Dave Ewers
7 Don Armand
8 Thomas Waldrom
16 Greg Bateman
17 Ben Moon
18 Moray Low
19 Ryan Caldwell
20 Kai Horstmann
21 Haydn Thomas
22 Ian Whitten
23 Byron McGuigan