Fraser Balmain was named Leicester Tigers’ player of the month after a number of bruising displays up front and the prop admits the battle against Exeter Chiefs will be won in the trenches this weekend.
The schedule has thrown up one of Round 4’s most intriguing clashes in Aviva Premiership Rugby, as a Leicester side who have conceded just three tries come up against the free-scoring Chiefs.
Exeter lead the way with 13 tries scored – five more than second best, and current leaders, Saracens – and have been beaten just once at Sandy Park since Round 2 of last season.
Yet the Tigers’ away record is also nothing to be scoffed at, with their only Aviva Premiership Rugby defeat on their travels since January coming at eventual champions Saracens.
Leicester have emerged triumphant in their last six meetings with the Chiefs, and Balmain says the way to keep that record going is to dominate at the set-piece.
“Exeter have started very well with a couple of good results and they have a lot of good players and a few of our old boys as well, which will definitely add something to it,” said Balmain.
“It is pretty obvious what they bring to Exeter. Even if we didn’t know them as well as we do, their strengths are well known and they will make it tough for us.
“I’ll be coming up against Tomas Francis. I’ve played against him all through my school years and I know him very well so I am looking forward to that.
“Typically when we have played at Sandy Park and had success we have done well up front and that has allowed our attacks to lead on from that.
“We can’t give them that platform as they have some dangerous attacking players too. We have to focus on our game and if we create our openings the result will come.”
The Chiefs have been impressive in attack and defence of late, tallying six tries in each of their last two Aviva
Premiership Rugby games while conceding one in total.
But fly-half Gareth Steenson is well aware of the task at hand this weekend.
“The form book would say this is a tougher test [than London Irish and Newcastle Falcons] as Leicester have obviously started well,” said Steenson.
“For us it is always a tough fixture. They come with a big set-piece game and are very strong up front and have some devastating runners in the backline who are bang on form.
“We have to really bring our game on top of them. We are just going to focus on ourselves and it has been quite nice having a shortened week, with us playing on Sunday and now on Saturday. We can just get ourselves refreshed and ready for what is going to a big test on Saturday evening. It is one we are really looking forward to.”
Sandy Park, 5.30pm – Live on BT Sport
Referee: Greg Garner (85th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Paul Burton & Ross Campbell. TMO: Geoff Warren.