Although top of Pool Two after four rounds, Rob Baxter’s side have yet to shake off the shackles of Irish rivals Connacht, who kept up their pursuit of the Devon club by themselves recording a French double in recent weeks.
With the Chiefs having claimed maximum rewards in both of their European encounters against La Rochelle, Connacht also collected a healthy nine-point haul from their two clashes with Bayonne to lie just two points behind the Aviva Premiership club.
It means the two are now set for a mouth-watering encounter in Galway next month where it’s likely the victors of that game will ultimately secure their place in the last eight of this season’s competition.
And having been a fans’ favourite with the Connacht faithful prior to his move to Sandy Park during the summer of 2013, Vainikolo is well aware of what is facing the Chiefs ahead of their trip across the Irish Sea.
“It should be a good game,” he said. “Obviously we have got them over there next month and it’s a special place to go and play rugby. It can be cold, wet and windy over there, but more importantly it’s a tough place to go and play.
“It was good that we were able to get another bonus point [against La Rochelle] and come away with the win. It’s put us in a good position at the top of the group, but we have to keep working hard and producing the results.”
In another one-sided encounter at the weekend, Vainikolo claimed his eighth career try for the Chiefs as he claimed one of four first half touchdowns for the Devonians. Fellow backs Tom James and Adam Hughes followed suit after the break as Exeter cruised to a comfortable 41-17 victory.
The success meant an eighth successive victory for Baxter’s side, who on Friday face a testing return to Premiership action when they travel to Sale Sharks.
Vainikolo, however, insists confidence is high within the Exeter camp and recent displays have shown that Baxter has in place a squad capable of challenging on numerous fronts.
“There is a lot of confidence right now, but it all comes from training in the week and playing well in the games,” said the 29-year-old back. “We all do our homework on the opposition, we work hard in training and we take that into the games. Right now the whole squad is performing really well and we’re getting results.”
Like most areas at the Chiefs, the battle for a starting spot is red-hot and it’s no different for Vainikolo as he looks to cement himself firmly within Baxter’s plans.
“Obviously we’ve got Jack Nowell, Jessy, TJ [Tom James] and myself all battling for places, so you know you have to be at your best when you get out there,” continued Vainikolo. “For me, it was good to get out there and play as it’s been a while.”
And as for his latest try, which included a blockbusting raid through the heart of the La Rochelle defence, Vainikolo added: “I always seem to be in the right place at the right time for some reason. Yes, it’s good to score, but you have to give credit to the forwards who did a lot of the hard work before hand, I was just lucky to finish things off.”
The Chiefs are hopeful of finding out this week the dates and kick-off times of their final two European fixtures against Connacht and Bayonne. Once known, details will be conveyed through all the official club media channels.