Sandy Park may be a fortress for Exeter Chiefs, but hooker Jack Yeandle wants them to focus on their away form as they look to go one better than last season in Aviva Premiership Rugby.
The Chiefs lost just one home match in the regular season last year, but went down six times on the road as they finished second in the table to Saracens – who eventually beat them in the Twickenham showpiece final.
The English and European champions dominated the opening 20 minutes and ultimately gave the Chiefs too much to do as they went on to win 28-20.
Although second was seen as a huge step forward for the Chiefs, who only entered Aviva Premiership Rugby six years ago, Yeandle is not satisfied and is demanding a more rounded campaign – which starts with a stern test against Wasps on Sunday in a repeat of last season’s semi-final.
“Our first target is the top six. If you don’t achieve that then you leave yourself stumped in terms of achieving anything else,” he said.
“If you aim for anything else then you put unnecessary pressure on everyone at the club, so that is our first target. We will see step by step how it goes.
“There is a driving force in itself because we did not achieve the aim last season. But then we drove our standards on home performances.
“Your home is your fortress and you need to make it tough for teams to come and play and we did that. I think there are a few shots we did not fire on the road.
“We set our target of beating teams in the lower half of the table on the road and we did challenge but you look at a couple of performances where we did not turn up on the road – and the final was the same.
“We need to make sure that when we are not at Sandy Park, we need to start playing and not leaving ourselves with too much of a mountain to climb.”
Sunday’s clash with Wasps will see the renewal of an exciting rivalry – the Chiefs beat Wasps 34-23 in last season’s semi-final – and the home side have added a glut of stars to their squad ahead of the new campaign.
And while Yeandle admits it is a tough opener, he is excited to see the Chiefs pit themselves against one of the title favourites.
“They were big games last year and a lot of emotion was put into them and even the importance of the games,” he said.
“We have always had tough games against them, if you look back to the ones recently they always seem to be close encounters.
“What better way to test yourselves then going away to play Wasps in the first game?
“Wasps have made some really world class signings and have bought in some big names. We have kept the same tight-knit squad and you can’t get a bigger test.”
Aviva Premiership Rugby returns this weekend. For a full fixture list please click here