After two weeks of European action against French rivals ASM Clermont Auvergne, the Devon club find themselves back in the cut and thrust of English rugby’s top tier, determined to maintain their lofty status as they head into the New Year.
Currently sat second in the standings behind defending champions Saracens, the Chiefs will be looking to wrap up a successful 2015 with one final victory against the visiting Sharks.
With just one home defeat on home soil in the calendar year - that incidentally came against Gloucester in the first game of 2015 - Atkins says the Chiefs are determined to maintain their impressive Sandy Park stronghold.
“Rob has always said what we build at home and what we do here is incredibly important,” said the towering Aussie who moved to the Chiefs last summer from Edinburgh.
“We not only want to maintain the record, but we want to add to it. The boys are really looking forward to bouncing back after last week’s loss in Clermont, but it will be a great atmosphere here on Boxing Day, it’s pretty much sold out, so we’re looking forward to putting in a good performance and getting back to the fortress that is Sandy Park.”
Certainly Chiefs fans will be hoping their side can replicate the efforts of their last home outing, which saw them down a star-studded Clermont line-up 31-14.
Sadly, Rob Baxter’s side could not repeat the feat when the two clubs met again last Sunday in France, but Atkins says that performance has been put to bed this week and now the Chiefs have their sights firmly set on Sale.
"There are definitely positives to be taken because it's an incredibly tough ask to be going over to Clermont,” he added. “I don't think a UK team has won there in Europe in seven years.
"More important, though, was the game down here - the boys put 31 points on a top-flight side, which is fantastic to see. Hopefully we can do more of the same this weekend because the way the boys play, it really expresses the Exeter Chiefs way. It's about attacking rugby and going after tries - that entertains the people who come to watch and hopefully we can do that again against Sale.”
Recruited by Baxter during the summer, Atkins has been earmarked as an ideal replacement for departing lock, and fellow Australian, Dean Mumm.
Before his departure, former skipper Mumm gave a glowing endorsement of Atkins to Baxter and the new man may well have a chance to impress in the near future with second-rower Damian Welch set for a spell on the sidelined with a pec injury.
And despite his short spell at Sandy Park, the 27-year-old claims he already feels settled down in Devon.
"It's a pretty easy place to settle in with a great bunch of blokes and a lovely part of the world," added Atkins. "I haven't experienced anything like this before and It's a totally different game-plan to previous teams I have been at because we're playing expansive, running rugby which really helps add little subtleties to your game.
“Yes, it's a shame for Damo who has hurt his pec, you wouldn’t wish an injury on any of your team-mates, but hopefully I can make the most of my opportunity and help out.
“Right now we’re sitting second and you’d take that any day coming into the end of the year. However, you can’t rest on laurels. I know it’s an old cliche, but you just have to take every week as it is and look to build and keep going forward.”
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