Mitch Lees says Exeter Chiefs are well aware of the threat posed by rivals Worcester Warriors ahead of tomorrow’s Aviva Premiership encounter at Sixways (3pm).
Last Saturday the Midlanders caused something of a stir across the division when they inflicted a rare defeat on reigning champions Saracens – and Lees knows the Chiefs can ill afford to suffer a similar fate as they look to maintain their position within the top three.
Rob Baxter’s side continued their impressive run of Premiership form last time out by sharing out a 35-35 draw with table topping Wasps, who failed to capitalise on the fact that their hosts played half the game with 14 men.
Indiscipline from the Chiefs during that game saw Lees himself sit out part of the action when he was sin-binned in the first half for a professional foul, before fellow lock Jonny Hill was sent to the sidelines permanently early in the second period when he was red-carded for an illegal tackle on Ashley Johnson.
Despite the numerical disadvantage, though, the Chiefs dug deep into their reserves and were unlucky not to claim victory against their rivals, who had to rely on a late converted try from Joe Simpson to draw them level.
With five tries apiece and 70 points accrued across the board, it was easily one of the most entertaining games to have graced Sandy Park in recent years.
However, Aussie forward Lees says there has been plenty of chat this week about addressing certain parts of Exeter’s defensive showing and that a repeat showing cannot be accepted against the Warriors.
“Worcester showed last week [against Saracens] that they are a very good side,” said the 28-year-old. “We watched the video this week and saw how they put themselves in the right areas and then hammered them with their attack.
“Sure, Saracens made a few uncharacteristic errors in defence – which they don’t tend to do that often – but fair play to Worcester for taking their chances. Our defence at times against Wasps wasn’t great, so we can’t go there and do the same thing again. We have to put out game on them from minute one and take control of the game.”
Worcester’s victory not only helped boost their own survival chances at the foot of the table, but underlined a change in mind-set, especially since they brought in former Newcastle Falcons and Bath coach Gary Gold as a consultant.
“You can see Gary Gold has changed one or two things with them, so we need to be ready for that,” added Lees. “As we’ve seen, not just last week but also in the past, any team is capable of beating anyone at this level.
“I know fans will look at where the two sides are in the table and expect us to win easily, but rugby doesn’t work like that and that’s not how we are thinking as a squad. Because they are at home you expect them to be a lot more dangerous and they’ll want to perform in front of their fans.
“As I said, results can change every week so we have to make sure we are in the right frame of mind, both physically and mentally, and see where it takes us.”