It was not that long ago that Exeter Chiefs were the Aviva Premiership’s new boys but ahead of Sunday’s clash with London Welsh hooker Chris Whitehead insists he and his teammates will not be doing the Exiles any favours.
Whitehead and co have made such a storming start to life in the top flight that it is remarkable to think that barely two years ago the Chiefs were a newly-promoted side, tipped by almost all to tumble straight back down to the Championship.
This season it is the turn of London Welsh to be the pundits’ pick for the drop and they have not started their season in flying style with defeats against Leicester Tigers and Harlequins to show from their opening games.
This is the two clubs’ first ever clash in the Premiership, but they have been regular adversaries in the lower leagues over the years and Whitehead, who also spent time on loan at the Exiles, knows they face a battle at the Kassam Stadium.
“We know exactly what London Welsh will be feeling having been in their shoes not that long ago and they will be going all guns blazing in front of their own fans to get off the mark,” he said.
“This season we don’t have the luxury of being the underdogs and I would imagine we go into the game with London Welsh as favourites and with that comes different pressures that we need to deal with.
“We are learning to deal with those pressures every week whereas before it was easier because we wouldn’t have that hanging over us.
“That is the position that London Welsh are in now and every game is a World Cup for them so we have to be wary.
“I know the ethos of the club from my time there and I honestly believe they deserve to be in the Premiership and all credit to them, but we don’t want to hand them any favours.”
Welsh will take some heart from the fact that the Chiefs have only won one of their last four away games but hooker Neil Briggs insists he and his teammates will have to front up in a big way on Sunday.
“We understand the Aviva Premiership is a tough league and you’re going to be punished if you make mistakes and that’s life,” said Briggs, who joined the Exiles this summer after a season in France with Bourgoin.
“You don’t really need to have seen too much of Exeter to know they are a big, physical team that works hard for each other, they play territory and have hard runners in the backs that can cut you up if you give them space.
“We know it’s going to be a big physical game up front and we need to match up and more and we’ve been working hard on the set piece this week.”
Referee: David Pearson (167th Premiership game)
Assistant Referees: Paul Burton, Andrew Small.