Ricky Pellow believes a bit of fine tuning to the Exeter defensive plan this week means the Chiefs will travel to rivals Scarlets in buoyant mood ahead of Sunday’s clash at the Parc Y Scarlets (3pm).
Last season’s beaten finalists kicked off their Anglo-Welsh Cup campaign in fine fashion a week ago, dispatching Premiership counterparts Northampton Saints 43-28 in a seven-try success on home soil.
Although delighted with the way his side went about their business in attack, skills coach Pellow was somewhat critical of his players in the way they allowed the Saints to hit back in the second period, snatching a losing try bonus point with two late scores in the game at Sandy Park.
A few additional pointers on the training field this week seem to have addressed those issues and Pellow is confident the Chiefs can pick up from where they left off against the Welsh region.
“Last week was a really good performance, particularly in attack, but we’ve had a few things to work on defensively this week,” said Pellow. “Being honest, it was a little bit uncharacteristic from us defensively. Normally we tend to put a lot of energy into our attack and then transfer that into our defence. Full credit to Northampton - they kept coming at us, they offloaded well and they broke us at times - but we know as a team we weren’t quite where we needed to be.
“We’ve talked about that this week and we’ve spoken about the importance of putting the same amount of energy into our defensive structure as we do in attack.”
The positives from last week, however, far outweighed the negatives and Pellow was keen to highlight those key points, rather than reflect too much on other issues.
“To get a five-point win against what was a very good Northampton side was a great start and has given us real momentum to take into Sunday for what we know will be another tough game in Wales,” added the Cornishman
“The Scarlets, we know, are a very good side with some quality players. From the games we have seen of them, there are a lot of similarities between the two teams, and they are a side who like to keep the ball in hand and attack, so we will have to be on our game defensively.”
The visitors, though, have again assembled a powerful match-day squad, which this weekend will be boosted by the return of both Luke Cowan-Dickie and Dave Ewers following long-term knee injuries. Both will start the game on the bench, but are expected to take to the field at some stage as they look to get some much-needed game time under their belts.
That was the case for a few of their team-mates last weekend with the likes of Alec Hepburn, Ollie Devoto and Sam Hill all appearing against the Saints. The trio will get another chance this weekend, as will Aussie international Greg Holmes, who is included in the match-day squad for the first time this season.
A quick glance at the Chiefs line-up shows the quality of player now available to Director of Rugby Rob Baxter, who has said that if players perform in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, they can propel themselves into the mix for Premiership selection in the coming weeks.
“I think it shows the strength in depth that we now have across the squad,” added Pellow. “If you look at the calibre of players we have, yes it’s very strong and with real quality, but in a lot of cases they are players who need game time. Obviously it’s great having the likes of Dave Ewers and Luke Cowan-Dickie back this week, it was the same last week with the likes of Devo and Hilly.
“At the same time, we’ve got other senior guys like Matt Kvesic and Kai Horstmann who are really pushing hard, Sam Skinner had another really good game last week, and the likes of Shorty and Tom O’Flaherty on the wing were excellent.
“I guess it shows the evolution of the side over the last few years, but at the same time we’ve always put a massive emphasis on this competition. As the years have gone by, so our squad has got stronger and stronger. Yes, we still use it as a development tool for a number of our younger players, but a number of those players - the likes of Stu Townsend, Jack Maunder and Tom Hendrickson - you’d now consider as experienced players within our squad.”
CHIEFS SIDE TO FACE SCARLETS
15 Phil Dollman
14 Tom O’Flaherty
13 Ollie Devoto
12 Sam Hill
11 James Short
10 Joe Simmonds
9 Stuart Townsend
1 Alec Hepburn
2 Shaun Malton
3 Moray Low
4 Toby Salmon
5 Sam Skinner
6 James Freeman
7 Matt Kvesic
8 Kai Horstmann (capt)
16 Luke Cowan-Dickie
17 Carl Rimmer
18 Greg Holmes
19 Ed Holmes
20 Dave Ewers
21 Jack Maunder
22 Sam Morley
23 Tom Hendrickson
Member since: 5th January 2016
Hi, I am Mark Stevens, Media and Communications Manager for the Exeter Chiefs