Rob Baxter refuses to see Exeter Chiefs as underdogs
Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter refuses to accept his side are underdogs for their Heineken Cup debut against champions Leinster today.
The in-form Chiefs travel to Dublin after humbling Aviva Premiership champions Harlequins last week.
And now Baxter has urged his players to be ambitious as they look to make their mark in Europe's premier rugby competition.
"If you can motivate your players by being the underdogs then that's fantastic," he said. "I kind of think we have moved beyond that now as a group. I don't think the underdog thing works too well for us.
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"Now it is about being ambitious and seeing what we can achieve and seeing where we can go.
"It is a different kind of pressure, but for me, I hope our players are trying to go into the Leinster game looking to see what they can achieve, not because of what they might lose. I like to think it is an exciting challenge but also a very positive one."
Baxter feels the challenges his club have already overcome in reaching the Premiership and establishing themselves in the top flight, stand them in good stead.
He said: "The biggest challenge we've really had as a coaching team was pulling together the Championship team in the way we did, coming through the play-offs and peaking at the right time.
"You look at the teams that are still struggling in that league and get that wrong – I think that is a little bit harder than planning a season where you just have to avoid relegation.
"That is what your first couple of seasons in the Premiership can be, now it is slightly different.
"Is it a greater challenge than Harlequins? I'm not sure. We approach it in very much the same way. You aim to hit the pitch in as good a condition as you can and then you just focus on doing your individual jobs as a team. If we do that, we're good and we are competitive and the game gets interesting."
Baxter admits that some eye-catching results have been interspersed with less-convincing performances this season.
"We have shown a little bit of inconsistency over the six weeks," he said. "We started the season very well and then had a little bit of up and down for different reasons.
"There have been some good performances and maybe some we weren't massively pleased with.
"We are kind of ticking along pretty well. The Harlequins game showed that we are moving forward and developing as a side, that we've learned from those first five tough games. That's what we have to do.
"We want to take that into the Leinster game and experience what we can in it."
Baxter has named virtually the same side that saw off Harlequins at Sandy Park. The two changes come in the pack where Irishman and skipper Tom Hayes returns in place of Dean Mumm, while James Scaysbrook is also back at openside flanker in place of the injured Ben White.
Chris Whitehead takes a place on the replacements' bench. Australia international Dean Mumm remains within the squad as an option both in the second and back-row.
Exeter Chiefs: Arscott; Whitten, Dollman, Shoemark, Jess; Steenson, Thomas; Sturgess, Alcott, Rimmer; Hayes (capt), Hanks; Johnson, Scaysbrook, Baxter. Replacements: Whitehead, Moon, Budgen, Muldowney, Mumm, Chudley, Mieres, Naqelevuki.