Exeter head coach Rob Baxter has called on the club’s supporters to turn out in force and play their part in helping the Chiefs when they tackle Gloucester at Sandy Park on Saturday (3pm).
With Aviva Premiership action returning to Exeter for the first time in a month, the Chiefs are expecting their biggest home crowd of the season so far for the visit of Bryan Redpath’s side.
Last season the Chiefs capped their Premiership bow by defeating the Cherry & Whites 22-10 – and hopes are high within the Devon camp that a similar outcome can be achieved this weekend.
All week Baxter has been busy preparing his troops for their latest league battle and he admits there is a “real buzz” about the Sandy Park corridors as he side edge ever nearer to kick-off, “You can tell before a home game that the guys start to get a little edgy and start to talk about the emotion they want to bring to the game,” he said. “They all know how important it is for them to perform well in front of a home crowd.
“None of the guys need any reminding about what games like this mean to our supporters. They are realistic and know it can’t easy for our supporters to get up at say four o’clock in the morning and then head off to Newcastle – yet they do it and they are there every week. Every ground you go to you can hear the Tribe in full voice and that’s fantastic. At Leicester earlier this season they had something like 17,000 people there, yet for long periods of that game all you could hear was the ‘Tomahawk Chop’ chant.
“As I said, our guys really appreciate the support they get here and they know it means a lot for them to perform well in front of them. That is why I am relatively confident that they will put in a big performance this weekend. Whether or not it will be enough, only time will tell. However, if we do perform – like I know we can – then we will give ourselves every chance to get something from the game.”
Baxter knows, however, that Gloucester themselves will be looking to avenge last season’s loss at Sandy Park, as well as look for an immediate response following their league defeat at home to Saracens last Saturday. The 19-17 loss by the reigning league champions meant Gloucester’s proud 22-match winning run at Kingsholm was brought to an end by a late converted try from Brad Barritt.
Watching footage of the Cherry & Whites this past week, Baxter saw at first hand the threats this weekend’s opponents will pose.
He added: “They are beginning to crank things up a little bit and they are starting to reaffirm the things people associate with Gloucester. They are combative up front and on the back of that they have some real game breakers in the back line. We know Saturday will be a tough test for us, but isn’t every game in the Premiership like that?”