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Gareth Steenson: Clermont defeat will be a good thing for Exeter Chiefs

Gareth Steenson concedes Exeter Chiefs were taught a lesson last weekend in the European Champions Cup but the fly-half is confident it will stand his side in good stead down the line.

Top 14 powerhouses ASM Clermont Auvergne came to Sandy Park on Sunday night and waltzed off with a bonus-point 35-8 victory.

That leaves the Chiefs – European quarter-finalists and Aviva Premiership Rugby runners-up last year – heading to Ulster this Saturday already under pressure to get a result.

There have been some harsh words in training this week as the Chiefs look to rediscover their form of last season.

And a trip to the Kingspan is the best place to prove they have learned their lessons, according to their Irish fly-half.

“I think we got a really good wake-up call and strangely that result is going to work out as a good thing for us moving forward,” he said.

“We now understand what it takes, we want to be a top team and that means playing like it every week.

“We tasted a wee bit of success last year, albeit we won nothing – and we need to remember that because we didn’t win anything and we have to make sure we want to push on.

“Are we happy enough to drift along through the season or do we want to go and achieve something?

“As a club we had a taste of the big stage and it just feels like we are waiting for something to happen whereas last season was about us going and actually taking it, fighting for everything.

“This year we are no longer the underdog, we are almost waiting for that plucky performance when actually we need to go out and put performances in week after week.

“To be honest with you, I don’t mind losing. But the manner of the defeat last week – it was just not up to scratch.

“We seemed to just fold a little bit.”

Some strong words and some real bite in training this week have hopefully got Rob Baxter’s troops back on the right track.

This weekend’s trip to Belfast will be a chance for Steenson’s family to come out and watch the Chiefs in the flesh – some of them for the first time.

But after Ulster’s opening weekend loss to Bordeaux-Begles, there is plenty riding on this weekend already for both sides.

“We have done well this week, training has been much better, we have had a bit of bite. But it is all about firing that into the game and it is going to be a tough place to go,” added Steenson.

“If we can bring the intensity we have brought to training this week to Saturday night then we are going to give ourselves a good chance.

“There will be a bit of heat on them, they have not been at home for a few weeks so the crowd will be up for it.

“We cannot be shocked by that intensity of what they will look to bring.

“There is pressure on us as well because if we don’t get a result, it’s not looking too good for us.

“But that is the thing with this competition, lose two games at the start and you are right on the back foot.”

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