Exeter Chiefs prop Brett Sturgess says that last year’s LV= Cup win has handed his side the belief to challenge for more silverware this term as they prepare for their semi-final showdown at Leicester Tigers on Sunday.
Rob Baxter’s side are fighting on three fronts as the business end of the season approaches, four wins in a row seeing them sit second in Aviva Premiership Rugby, with a European Challenge Cup quarter-final against Newcastle Falcons to come.
And Sturgess is hopeful that last season’s breakthrough success can be matched by this year’s squad – not that he is taking anything for granted ahead of the Welford Road clash.
“We have got a lot of pride here,” he said. “We won this competition last year and we’re still in the competition and we want to win it and retain it.
“There’s maybe a little bit of pressure on us as the holders but we’re not really thinking about it too much.
“We’ve progressed really nicely in the last couple of years. The guys coming through and people getting talked about for England and finally getting recognition, and also where we are in the league, that’s the result of a lot of hard work, not just this year but over a few years.
“For a squad like us to be in contention in three different competitions at this stage in the season is fantastic for us.
“It’s always a big occasion going to Welford Road because of the size of the fans they bring, so it’s going to be a test and we’re really relishing that as a team.”
Sturgess has found game time limited this term but has enjoyed the LV= Cup, starting three of Chiefs’ four group games.
And after missing last year’s final through injury, the tight-head says that for him personally success this year would be all the sweeter.
“I think to the players who are playing this time round it will mean a lot,” he said. “Certain players, like myself, missed out last year due to injury.
“Watching from the sidelines, obviously I was really pleased and chuffed to see the guys and the club win our first silverware in the top flight, but it was kind of hard.
“If we can get there again it would mean a hell of a lot because realistically the last time I played a final would be the Championship play-off, so I would relish the opportunity.
“We’ve gone really well in the Premiership and in Europe but for a lot of the fringe players we’ve now got a big carrot with this semi-final against Leicester.”
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