With Exeter Chiefs going great guns in Aviva Premiership Rugby, Brett Sturgess admits now is the perfect time to make their mark in Europe with a win on French soil.
Victories over Saracens, Wasps and champions Northampton Saints in November have seen the Chiefs rise to within touching distance of the Aviva Premiership Rugby summit.
Meanwhile, in the European Rugby Challenge Cup, Rob Baxter’s side followed defeat at Bayonne in their opener with a 33-13 triumph over Irish outfit Connacht – Sturgess’ former club – back in October.
And with the pool wide open after two rounds, the prop believes victory in La Rochelle on Thursday night – the first of a double header against the Top 14 side – can lay the foundations for a run deep into the competition.
“If we go there and get something as vital as a win, then you can bring them back home and really start commanding the group,” said Sturgess. “It is a close group at the minute so one of these away wins could really take hold of the group.
“You look in their domestic league and they really go for it in home games – and it is the same with Europe.
“When they come over here you never know what team to expect but you know what to expect when you play a French team at home.
“They are going to be really up for it, they always are, they’ve got the home crowd and they bring something extra. We’ve got to be ready to match that.
“It’s important we go away again knowing it’s going to be a tough game – it always is when you’re going to France – and play really well and hopefully come away with something.”
That defeat at Bayonne, courtesy of a late Lisiate Fa'aoso try, was an early setback for Exeter in Pool 2 but victory on Thursday should see them retain their place at the top of the pile.
And Sturgess is confident the Chiefs can continue to turn heads in Aviva Premiership Rugby and challenge for European honours – as well as retaining their LV= Cup title.
He added: “The last trip away to France, in Bayonne, unfortunately it was the last play of the game and that really hurt us but it was important that we got an away point.
“That is what’s vital in these European groups and a win would be great but we’ve got them again a week later so it’s important to keep the momentum going and bring something back to play for in your home games.
“We’re going really well in the Premiership, we’re top in the LV= Cup and at the minute we’re top in the European group.
“I think it’s important when you’ve got a squad like we have, where players want to play, that you want to be playing for something. It’s important that we keep that going in all three competitions.”
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