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Whitten calls for Exeter Chiefs positivity

Exeter Chiefs centre Ian Whitten insists his side need to keep their heads up after a slump in Aviva Premiership Rugby saw the West Coast outfit drop out of the top four.

After winning seven of their opening nine league matches, Shane Geraghty’s last gasp drop-goal on Sunday condemned Rob Baxter’s men to their fourth defeat on the bounce.

But with the Chiefs in good shape in the European Challenge Cup, Whitten is calling on his team-mates to remain positve and wrestle the momentum back their way before they return to Aviva Premiership Rugby action next month.

“It’s been a disappointing few weeks with a couple of really tight losses,” he said. “But we know that we ourselves have got to just keep working and fighting hard and the results will come back our way.

“It’s not as though we have been training badly or anything like that. We’ve just got to stay confident in ourselves as we know we’re a good side.

“We won eight games in a row earlier in the season and we know we can do that again.

“I don’t know why we’ve started losing these games by narrow margins. You can search and search for reasons as to why it’s happening, but sometimes you over-think it and get down on yourself.

“That lowers your confidence, so the lesson we’ve got to learn is to just to think positively and really encourage each other out there.

“If we come together now and fight hard for everything, we can lift ourselves out of this spell.”

Despite finding his starting opportunities at Sandy Park limited due to the dominance of Sam Hill and Henry Slade in the Chiefs midfield, Whitten – capped twice for Ireland – has featured in all but one of Exeter’s Aviva Premiership Rugby matches this term.

And with his side in pole position to book a place in the European Challenge Cup quarter-finals this weekend when they take on Pool 2 rivals Connacht, Whitten is looking forward to a tough challenge on home shores.

He said: “It will be a tough contest over at Connacht as they are going really well over there this year and are playing a good brand of rugby under Pat Lam.

“It could be a very different game over there to when we played them on our ground as it can get very wet and windy, so we have to be prepared for either – we can play them how we did before, or switch to our wet weather game if needs be.

“It’s really not going to be an easy one for us at all. It’s almost like a cup final really for both teams as the winner will probably be the one to go through in the competition.

“We’ve just got to really attack the game. We need the win and should look forward to it.

“They’ve got some very good backs; Robbie Henshaw is going well for Ireland and Mils Muliana is obviously very strong in the back three, so we’ll have to be on our toes.”

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