Armand looking to kick on against Tigers
By Mike Smith
The Exeter Chiefs may be enjoying a rare down week from the rigours of the Gallagher Premiership, but Don Armand insists the hard work will continue when they report back in for training next week.
Positioned at the top of the table, five points clear of next-best Sale Sharks, Rob Baxter’s side have enjoyed a decent return from their latest Premiership block, winning three of their four games in the past month.
The most recent of those victories came last Saturday when – for a second successive home game – the Chiefs ran in eight tries on their way to a 57-20 victory over Westcountry rivals Bath.
It was the perfect response from the Devonians, who the previous week had endured late heartache away to Harlequins.
Already, though, Armand’s thoughts are switching to the future and the club’s next Premiership assignment against Leicester Tigers at Sandy Park on Saturday, March 21 (3pm).
The England international knows all too well the threat posed by the wounded Tigers, who despite being 11th in the current standings, still possess a squad full of international talent.
“They’ve been towards the bottom of the table, but any team can find form at any time in the season,” warned Armand. “You only have to look at their squad to know they’ve got a good pack, as well as a good backline. They are a team that when they’re firing, they are really firing!
“We know it will be challenge like always, but it’s one we’re really looking forward to.”
In what has been a testing run of top-flight fixtures for the Chiefs, including away days at both Gloucester and Harlequins, Baxter’s side are certainly well positioned after 13 rounds of battle to attack the remainder of the campaign.
"Being in the Premiership, every team is going to come at you,” continued Armand, who is now into his seventh year with the Chiefs. “In any game, it can be easy once you have the lead to take your foot off the gas, but we didn’t do that against Bath or Northampton.
“Once you’re in the lead, it’s all about keeping the pressure up and I'm sure it will serve us well for the future.”
In a contest which the Chiefs dominated from start to finish against Bath, they already had the try bonus point in the bag by half time thanks to tries from Tom O’Flaherty, Olly Woodburn, Sam Simmonds and Jannes Kirsten.
Although Bath improved after the break, further scores from Simmonds, Woodburn, Elvis Taione and Jack Maunder wrapped up the win for the Chiefs.
Armand admitted having that ruthless side to their play will be important for the Chiefs, who following the Leicester Tigers game, travel to Sale Sharks, before then entertaining Northampton Saints in the quarter-final of the Heineken Champions Cup on April 4.
"Like I said, that's the challenge for us,” he continued. “If you're ahead in a game and you take your foot off the gas, that’s when you will come unstuck. In every competition, we need to keep the squad fresh and we need keep the guys hungry. It's not just about wanting to keep at the top, it's about wanting to win games, and being on that upward rise towards the end of the season."