Rob Baxter wants his Exeter Chiefs side to go "flat out" in their quest to keep alive their qualification hopes in this season’s European Champions Cup.
Tomorrow, the high-flying Aviva Premiership outfit head across the English Channel to tackle Bordeaux-Begles in their penultimate fixture in Pool Two of this season’s competition.
With two victories and two losses to their name, the Chiefs know nothing less than a victory at the Stade Chaban Dalmas (2pm) will be good enough if they are to stand any chance of advancing to the last eight.
Defeat at ASM Clermont Auvergne last time out has seen Baxter’s side drop to third in the standings behind the French giants and the Ospreys, who head for Sandy Park a week on Sunday. They both meet at the Liberty Stadium tonight with the Top 14 side looking to all but seal their qualification with a win in Swansea.
For the Chiefs, though, powering on in the competition is just as important and although Baxter has shuffled his pack for this latest assignment following testing Premiership encounters with Sale Sharks, Northampton Saints and Gloucester, it’s still a formidable line-up been sent to France this weekend.
“We’re in a very competitive pool,” said Baxter. “Clermont are probably favourites now, but behind that it’s anybody’s make-up. I think the most important thing is to go over to Bordeaux, get a positive result, focus on ourselves and not worry too much about what team they are going to pick or what they are going to do.
“All we have to look at is what we can do, which is how we can go over there and play with great energy and in a way that wins us the game.
“We have to go over there with very little fear of losing because losing is simply not an option for us. We have to go flat out for the win. I believe we’ve picked a side who are fresh and energetic and who we are looking forward to seeing play and going after a win.”
With just Ollie Atkins and Olly Woodburn retained from the side who overcame Gloucester in the league last time out, Baxter is hoping those afforded a chance this weekend will grasp the opportunity with both hands.
“It’s still a very strong side,” added Baxter. “Yes, it’s different to what we’ve been playing in the Premiership, but it has to be. Jack Nowell, Will Chudley and Geoff Parling all picked up knocks last week, but that’s where we are.
“If you look at the side for this weekend, there is still a lot of Premiership and international experience in there and I am expecting them to be very competitive.
“As I said, we’ve not over analysed them too much this week, instead we’ve prepared solely with ourselves in mind. We’ve put a team out who I expect to express themselves in a positive manner and who will show great energy and make it a really exciting game.
“I don’t want us to get caught up in history of past games or what is happening elsewhere in the pool, I just want to go over there and let a team off the leash and get a big performance from them.”
Baxter continued: “These are exciting times for all of us and I am looking forward to seeing those players go out and play. I want them to stand up and be counted and force their way into the reckoning, not just for next week, but for the weeks that follow as well.
“For me, I am excited where this season can take us. This competition is exciting and so too is the Premiership, but at the same time so is having guys called up into the England set-up this week. I hope this is one of those seasons that you don’t want to end.”
15 Byron McGuigan
14 Olly Woodburn
13 Michele Campagnaro
12 Max Bodilly
11 Matt Jess
10 Will Hooley
9 Dave Lewis
1 Moray Low
2 Elvis Taione
3 Alex Brown
4 Ollie Atkins
5 Jonny Hill
6 Tom Johnson
7 Ben White
8 Kai Horstmann (capt)
16 Shaun Malton
17 Alec Hepburn
18 Carl Rimmer
19 Sam Skinner
20 Julian Salvi
21 Haydn Thomas
22 Gareth Steenson
23 Chrysander Botha