TOP BAR - Fixtures

Whitten wary of Gloucester threat

Ian Whitten has warned Exeter Chiefs can ill afford to take for granted their proud home record when they play host to rivals Gloucester in Saturday’s Aviva Premiership clash (3pm).

The two teams meet for the first top flight game of 2016 at Sandy Park, a venue which has become somewhat fortress-like for Rob Baxter’s side over the past 12 months.

Ironically, it was the Cherry & Whites who were the last side to emerge victorious from Exeter in any competition, winning 26-25 in yet another nail-biting encounter between the two adversaries.

Since then, plenty have tried and failed to down Devon’s finest on their own turf but, according to Irishman Whitten, the desire to protect their proud record is something that is driving the Chiefs forward.

"We’ve done well here, but it’s important we don’t take it for granted," said the Ulsterman. "You don’t want to get comfortable and think just because we’re at Sandy Park we’re going to win, that’s not how you look at things.

"Gloucester are a very good side and they are very capable of beating us if we don’t play at our best. Yes, it’s great to have that record, but at the same time if you don’t pitch up you will lose it."

With honours even in the ten previous top flight meetings, Whitten knows Gloucester will pose a creditable threat this weekend, particularly as they started the New Year with a decent home win over London Irish.

"As I said, they’re a good side and they have threats all over the field," added the centre. "They’ve been scoring a lot of tries recently. so it’s a good challenge and one we have to be ready for."

Whereas Gloucester head into the game on the back of a success, the Chiefs will be looking to rediscover their winning formula after they slipped to only their second league loss of the season when they went down 8-3 at Northampton Saints on New Year’s Day.

Whitten admitted the defeat was disappointing, but the Chiefs have gone through the video this week in detail and hopes are high they have eradicated any issues that arose.

"It was a difficult game, especially with the conditions," admitted Whitten. "As a team we were slightly off in terms of the intensity we needed to be at. We lost some battles out there and we were not as accurate and we didn’t carry as hard as we could have."

However, the Lisburn-born back insists the Chiefs won’t reflect too much on past setbacks, instead they will focus their thoughts on the task ahead.

"The past is the past, you take each game as it comes," he continued. "This year there is a game every week and there is no break to think about things, you just have to keep going, think about whose next up and not worry about what’s gone behind you. Instead you need to be ready for the weekend and give 100 per cent.

"Over time we have got better at resetting ourselves between games and making sure we are at the right level. Sometimes it’s hard to explain and as a player or as a team you have those days where it doesn’t go well, but the important things is you learn lessons from it and then you have to make sure you get things right during that next week so that you’re ready to go again on the Saturday."

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