Thomas Waldrom insists it’s ‘full steam ahead’ for him and his Exeter Chiefs team-mates as they look to book their place in this season’s Aviva Premiership play-offs.
Having helped Rob Baxter’s side move into second spot with victory over Newcastle Falcons last weekend, Exeter’s free-scoring No.8 will check into familiar surroundings again this Friday night when Devon’s finest prepare to tackle fellow high-flyers Leicester Tigers at Welford Road.
With just six rounds of the scheduled season remaining, Waldrom – who spent four years with the Midlanders before moving to the Chiefs in the summer of 2014 – knows the battle for crucial league points has been cranked up another notch as the final run-in looms large on the horizon.
“Friday’s a big game for both sides,” said the 33-year-old forward. “We’re at a crucial stage of the season and every game is huge from now on in. It’s good that we’re in the position we are – and that we have things in our own hands – but we know we have to keep delivering.
“We’ve been building slowly for a while now, adding different aspects to our game each week, and we’re going well. We’re taking confidence from the things we’re doing and hopefully we can continue that on Friday night.”
However, facing the Tigers in their own lair is no easy task, even if you are a team that have not lost in the league since the end of October.
Waldrom knows better than most the pride his former employers take in producing big performances at home and he says the Chiefs must be ready to meet their rivals head on from the outset this weekend.
“We’ve watched a few of their games in the build-up, including last week where they were probably not happy with their first half performance. They showed after the break how strong they can be, scoring 20 unanswered points, so we know it will be a tough contest up there.
“At the same time, we’re going well ourselves. Each week we set ourselves targets for games and we’re disappointed if we don’t reach them. It was nice to keep Newcastle to just 14 points last week, but even then we probably conceded a few soft points, so that’s something we’re always looking to address.”
In attack, though, the Chiefs have really been showing their quality with bonus points accrued in their last three league fixtures against Wasps, Worcester Warriors and the Falcons.
Helping to lead the way on the attacking front has been winger James Short, whose five tries in the past two games, have seen him leapfrog Waldrom at the top of the club’s scoring charts.
For the past two seasons the England international has been top of the pile come the end of the season and he laughs when it’s put to him that his scoring crown could be heading to a rival team-mate.
“There is so much competition within the squad at the moment, you just want to be out there playing,” said Waldrom, who has scored 46 tries in 75 appearances for the Chiefs. “The new rules have meant we have had to tweak a few things and the ball perhaps goes a bit wider these days, but it’s great when you look up and see guys like Shorty and Olly [Woodburn] getting the ball over the line.
“The backs have been doing their bit this season in terms of scoring tries – and equally us forwards do our bit when we have to. I think the two compliment one another really well.”
More of the same will be needed on Friday at a venue where the Chiefs have won just once in the Premiership since being promoted in 2010.
And for that to happen, Waldrom says it’s imperative the Chiefs turn up in the right frame of mind from the outset.
“Once you get your head around the changing rooms, they have to be one of the smallest in the Premiership, you just have to go out and attack from minute one,” said Waldrom. “Leicester often talk about the pride of playing at home, but for us we have to treat it like it’s just another game.
“We need to go there, perform well, do the basics right and look to play to our strengths. It’s the same for any game, but the key for us is to make sure we start well and take the game to them.”