Chiefs Side To Face Tigers
12th September 2014
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A 52-0 drubbing of the league's newcomers is always nice to crow about after week one, but Baxter insists the Tigers are a totally different kettle of fish and a quick glance at the league history is testament to that very fact.


The Midlanders have been crowned Premiership Kings on ten different occasions and having missed out on their annual pilgrimage to English Rugby's HQ last season, there is no doubt a desire within the Leicester camp to get back to their previous perch.


That said, there is also a desire within the Chiefs changing room that they too want to prove themselves at the very top end and Baxter knows a powerful display at the new-look Sandy Park this weekend will certainly help them in that quest.


"Obviously we've had quite a few games against Leicester over the last few years and I've always enjoyed them," said Baxter. "In most cases we've tended to play pretty well in those games. However, last year's away game, which came a week after the LV= Cup Final, was probably the one performance where you could just see us getting through a game of rugby and we let ourselves down a little bit.


"This week we've talked very much about cranking things up again and looking forward to something which should be a very precious thing. Exeter Chiefs against Leicester Tigers at Sandy Park should be a precious thing for us and we have to put in a performance that shows that."


With Sandy Park having undergone a multi-million pound face-lift during the summer, both on and off the field, Baxter says he and his players cannot wait to experience the new surroundings, which includes the new £1m Desso Grassmaster pitch.


"I know everyone is looking forward to getting on the pitch and having this first home game," added Baxter. "Conditions underfoot have been fantastic, weather conditions for the weekend look good, and if we get this place full with 13,000 people, it will be brilliant. As I said, though, we have to make sure we put on a great spectacle for them all and the key is we make sure we come out and play in a way that gives us an opportunity to win


"There were times last season when we became a little afraid of losing at home, - and I don't think that is a mentality that suits us well. It's probably part of the underlying factor why we lost a few of those one-score games, because despite being in the lead and in control of games, we contrived ways to lose them.


"Instead of just going on and putting our foot on the pedal and accelerating through those games when we had the lead in the second half, we became a little afraid of losing it . This year we're determined not to let that happen again and I've said to the guys I don't want them to be worried about losing, I want them to play in a way that gives us a chance to win the game and take as much as we can from the game."


Seven tries at London Welsh showed the Chiefs' attacking game was fully functional, but Baxter was also pleased with the defensive effort of his troops, particularly in the closing stages when their rivals were pushing hard for a consolation score.


"You can have a great desire to attack, we've always been like that," continued Baxter. "But to be a successful side you need to match that with a desire to defend. Other that one or two errors, we looked pretty good last week, and if anything really pleased me it was when we defended our line right at the death.


"It could have been easy - with the time dead on the clock - to let them have a walk-in try and we then walk off and say we've done a good job. That attitude and that steel at the end, however, bodes well for the season because if we are prepared to fight like that when we are 50 points up, I really want to see how we'll fight when we are two points down and on our try-line."


Not surprisingly, Baxter sticks with a winning formula for tomorrow's test. Summer signings Tomas Francis, Mitch Lees, Ryan Caldwell, Chrysander Botha and Thomas Waldrom will all make their home debuts, whilst the solitary switch in personnel comes on the bench where Damian Welch returns in place of Don Armand.


Meanwhile, the Tigers - who started with a home win over Newcastle Falcons - are sure to parade a host of star names and the Chiefs coach knows whoever turns out for the visitors will be a formidable force.


"You look across their line-up and you just see dangerous players who can create things out of very little," warned Baxter. "Look at their performances in recent seasons of people like Manu Tuilagi and Niki Goneva and you see the threat they cause on their own.


"At the same time, you have to think about the set-piece strength that Leicester have, as well as the unpredictability of Freddie Burns at ten, so it makes things very interesting. We know they are very efficient and very solid in all that they do - and you get very little easy against them. You have to work hard for what you get and even then that may not be enough. That's the threat they pose, so you can't switch off and you need to be on your mettle the whole game."

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