Luke Cowan-Dickie says Exeter Chiefs will have to be firing on all cylinders when they welcome defending English and European champions Saracens to Sandy Park this Sunday (3pm).
Having kicked off their latest Aviva Premiership campaign with a 25-20 loss at Wasps last weekend, Devon’s finest will be looking for an immediate riposte against the star-studded Londoners.
The two club met three times last season – including the Premiership Final itself in May – and on each occasion it was Mark McCall’s side who triumphed.
Their 14-11 victory at Sandy Park back in February was the first of those victories and ended a 13-month unbeaten home record held by the Chiefs. Since then, however, Rob Baxter’s men have re-established their home fortress and head into this latest tussle determined not only to preserve that record, but at the same time gain some payback for last term’s losses.
“Obviously we played them a few times last season, including the final itself,” said Cowan-Dickie. “We didn’t have the best first half in the final, but this week we are on our own pitch and we always play better here.
“We know Saracens are a quality side and that they have a number of big names. As always, though, we’ll take a close look at them this week and see where their strengths and weaknesses are and hopefully look to exploit them.”
But whilst Sarries will pose a creditable threat, the Chiefs have proved in the past that they themselves are a force to be reckoned with and although they were edged out a week ago, England international Cowan-Dickie insists there were positives to take from the game.
“It wasn’t a bad performance from us,” he said. “At times we were very, very good and played some good rugby. In the end it was a bit like last season where we were ahead for most of the game, but then lost it at the end.
“If you look back at last season we lost at Bath in our first game, where we played well throughout the game and came away losing that game. Obviously it’s a negative whenever you lose, but we used the positives last season to do well and kick on, and we’ll be looking to do the same this season, starting with this weekend.
“As Rob said, a losing bonus point away from home against a solid, top four side is par. The disappointment, I guess, is that we had a chance to come away with something better than that against Wasps.”
Tickets for Sunday’s game are still available either online via www.exeterchiefs.co.uk or through the Trading Post, which is open Monday to Friday from 9:30am to 4:30pm.