TOP BAR - Fixtures

Waldrom calls for focus ahead of Sale clash

Unlike many of his team-mates at Sandy Park, Thomas Waldrom is well versed in what it takes to reach the end of season play-offs in the Aviva Premiership.

During his four-year stint with former club Leicester Tigers, the England international reached the semi-final on each occasion, even helping the Midlanders to lift the title against arch rivals Northampton Saints in the 2012/13 season.

Now – in his new guise as an Exeter Chief – the 32-year-old forward is flourishing in the Westcountry as he bids to help the Devon club to book their place in the play-offs for the first time in the club's history.

Waldrom took his try tally for the season to 17 (16 of them in the top flight) during Sunday's 24-20 victory over Saracens that lifted Rob Baxter's side back into fourth spot with just one round of the scheduled season remaining.

It's been an outstanding first season for the New Zealand-born No.8 in Exeter colours, but as Waldrom was quick to stress following his team's first-ever triumph at Allianz Park, there is still much work to be done, starting with Saturday's visit of Sale Sharks (3:30pm).

With just one round left of battle, the Chiefs are in a three-way battle alongside Saracens and Leicester Tigers to fill the two remaining play-off berths alongside Northampton and Bath, who have already qualified with a week to spare.

Looking to the weekend, Waldrom says excitement is already building within the Chiefs camp, but that a clear and concise focus must be maintained if they are to achieve their goals.

"It was nice to get the result, but we know Sale is even bigger," said Waldrom following Sunday's success. "It is nice to be in this situation going into the final week, but now we have to do our recovery and get ourselves ready for next week."

Certainly Sale will offer a sizeable threat to Exeter's ambitions, particularly as they inflicted a record top flight loss on the Chiefs on their last visit to Sandy Park, but Waldrom believes the challenge should help to bring the very best out of him and his team-mates.

"I wasn’t part of the Sale defeat last year, but I know from previous encounters that you want to make your home a fortress," added Waldrom, whose try double saw him tie Neil Back's Premiership record haul for a forward.

"I know some of the boys are already thinking about that game, which is nice, but we have to go out there and do it, not just talk about it. It is always nice when there is a bit of spice. We know what we have to do and it will be great to have a full crowd for it. They know there is something on the game, it's not a dead rubber, and that we're in with a fighting chance."

Having collected 16 league tries already this term, Waldrom now has his sights set on the competition's greatest-ever tally which belongs to former Richmond winger Dom Chapman, who crossed a remarkable 17 times in as many games during the 1997/98 season.

Waldrom puts his free-scoring efforts down to the hard work of those around him, but also the backing of Baxter and his team of coaches around him.

"It was quite nice going out there knowing that Rob had given us the freedom to go out there and enjoy it and play our game," said Waldrom. "We made some mistakes, but that is what I enjoy about this team – if you make a mistake, someone is there to cover your back.

"Even if we had lost it in the last minute, I think we would still be happy how we went about our work.

"For me, personally, I could not ask for a better first season, but I've made it hard for myself for next season!

"I have just got on with it and enjoyed it. We have our systems but it is the way you can adapt them which is what I enjoy here. Behind the scenes, our coaches put a lot of work into what we are trying to do. The way Rob controls us is an environment I really enjoy. It is unique, but I love it."
 

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