Exeter Chiefs prop Hoani Tui is targeting a big month ahead for the Devon club as they look to push on not only in the Aviva Premiership, but also within the Amlin Challenge Cup.
On Friday night, Rob Baxter’s side return to domestic action when they travel to Sale Sharks at Edgeley Park (7.45pm), before they then gear up to entertain promoted Worcester Warriors a week later. Following those two fixtures, the Chiefs return to European exploits when they come up against Pool 4 leaders Newport-Gwent Dragons in back-to-back encounters.
“It’s a big month ahead for us,” admitted Tui. “Friday will be a tough game because they have been going well. They’ve brought in a few new players this year; they’ve got a couple of sharp backs who lead from the front; plus they have a strong forward pack, so they will be a handful.”
That said, the Chiefs – buoyed by last weekend’s 68-0 thumping of Italian side Cavalieri Prato – will travel to Stockport in good stead and with the knowledge that they defeated the Sharks twice in top flight action last season.
“It will be tough up there, we know that,” added the New Zealand-born prop. “When we were in the Championship we played them in pre-season and we obviously went there in the Premiership last year, so we’ve got used to going there and playing them. It’s a smaller pitch compared to Sandy Park, so hopefully my lungs will cope.
“But it’s like any game, it all starts up front. They’ve got a good pack and a good scrum, so we have to be aware. We can’t go up there, start well and then drop away, we have to put in a full 80-minute performance.”
Indeed, the Chiefs showed last time out that they are happy to perform for the entire game. In their ten-try show against visiting Prato, three of their scores came in the final five minutes. Whilst in Perpignan the week previous, the Chiefs were always in contention in what was a full-on battle against their French hosts.
Tui added: “When we went away to Perpignan we did a lot of good things, but we also did a few things that we’ve since been able to work on these past two weeks. Last week against Prato the boys put the things we had worked on into action and we ended up scoring 10 quality tries. It seemed everything we trained on during the week came to plan.”
With little footage of Prato to focus on ahead of kick-off, the Chiefs used much of their pre-game planning to focus their thoughts on themselves rather than the opposition. It was – according to Tui – a refreshing change to the norm.
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“Last week we didn’t have too much to go on with Prato, so we concentrated on ourselves,” he said. “This week has been more of the same, although we do have more information on Sale. That said, we will no doubt go in with a similar mentality as last week and with the thought that we play our own style of footy.
“The last couple of Premiership games we have played well and come away with some bonus points, but now we’re getting towards the middle of the season so we have to kick on from the good start we had. Hopefully over these next two weeks we can come away with a couple of wins.”