Although Exeter’s Anglo-Welsh Cup hopes remain in the balance, Chiefs skills coach Ricky Pellow insists his side will be going ‘all-out’ for victory when they play host to Saracens at Sandy Park tomorrow (3pm).
Last weekend’s 31-21 defeat at Worcester Warriors saw the Devonians surrender top spot in their pool to Harlequins, who tonight travel to Northampton Saints knowing they need just a point to advance into the last four at the expense of the Chiefs.
That said, the Saints themselves need a victory to thrust them into the last four and Pellow is hopeful the Midlanders could prosper and keep his side’s hopes alive for another 24 hours at least.
Even if they are still alive, the Chiefs must then overcome a Sarries outfit with maximum reward – and that in itself is no formality given the strength of riches the Londoners possess within their playing ranks.
As always, Pellow remains upbeat ahead of the fixture and has challenged his players to bounce back from last week’s setback at Sixways with a big performance on home soil.
“By Friday night we’ll know where we are and what we may or may not need to do,” said Pellow. “Whatever the outcome, though, we have talked about this week about the need to put in a performance to be proud of. We want to finish the competition strongly, either to push for qualification into the semi-finals, or to finish with as many points as we can.
“All week we’ve talked about trying to make the weekend all about ourselves. We’ve looked at areas we were not happy with last week, and if we can put those things into place, I think we can cause Saracens a few problems.”
Pellow added: “If we are in on Saturday still fighting for qualification that will be fantastic, but if we’re not, we will still approach the game in the same manner as if we needed to win. As I said, we want to put in a performance that not only this group of players can be proud of, but also the supporters can be proud of.
“We saw enough last week to give us plenty of encouragement moving forward. The positives were certainly there and this competition, we know, always throws up one or two players you kind of knew of, but didn't know if they could really step up to that level as soon as they have.
“For me, James Kenny has been outstanding for a young academy prop coming into the team and doing as well as he has. Marcus Street is another who has had some very solid games in the competition. This week he’s away with England Under-20s, but they’ve both shown what they can do at this level.
“At the same time, I know I always talk about it at A team level, but again senior guys like Kai Horstmann and Julian Salvi, they are great guys to help lead the squad. Not only have they done very well last week and hopefully again this week, but they’ve both put in strong performances that have pushed them into the frame for selection when the Premiership returns next weeks.
“This competition, yes we want to qualify all the time, but you also want to see young players get game time and those senior guys put their hands up and force us as coaches to make sough tough decisions when it comes to selection.”
Both Horstmann and Salvi will start tomorrow’s clash in a vastly experienced back-row which will also include try-scoring No.8 Thomas Waldrom. The New Zealander is one of a number of fresh faces added to the ranks this weekend, alongside the likes of Greg Holmes, Jack Maunder, Ollie Devoto Phil Dollman and new signing Santiago Cordero, who will make his Chiefs debut on the right wing.
Signed earlier this week from Super Rugby side Jaguares, the Argentinian international will be thrust straight into the fray and Pellow is looking forward to what the 24-year-old can add to the Exeter back division.
“If you look at our wingers, the likes of Olly Woodburn and Jack Nowell, they are both physical guys who play a certain way,” explained Pellow. “They are both big assets to us, but Santiago brings something a little different again. He’s got unbelievably quick feet, he can step defenders, and he’s lightning quick.
“Yes, he might be a little ‘harum-scarum’ at times, but he backs himself and if we can get the ball to him like we normally do with our wingers, he will have great opportunities to show what he can do. He’s certainly something a bit different to what we currently have.”
15 Phil Dollman
14 Santiago Cordero
13 Tom Hendrickson
12 Ollie Devoto
11 Tom O’Flaherty
10 Joe Simmonds
9 Jack Maunder
1 Moray Low
2 Jack Innard
3 Greg Holmes
4 Ollie Atkins
5 Wilhelm Van Der Sluys
6 Kai Horstmann (capt)
7 Julian Salvi
8 Thomas Waldrom
16 Paul Davis
17 James Kenny
18 Jack Owlett
19 Sean Lonsdale
20 Tom Lawday
21 Stu Townsend
22 Sam Morley
23 Harry Strong
Member since: 5th January 2016
Hi, I am Mark Stevens, Media and Communications Manager for the Exeter Chiefs