Devoto looking to finish the job
By Mike Smith
After three back-to-back victories in the Gallagher Premiership, it's back to European action for the Exeter Chiefs this weekend as they look to preserve their perfect record in this season's Heineken Champions Cup when they tackle Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun (3:15pm).
Rob Baxter's side will head North of the Border full of confidence, having maintained their rich vein of form with a 45-28 success on the road at London Irish last weekend. The visitors had bagged the try bonus point thanks to first half scores from Sam Hill, Dave Dennis, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Ollie Devoto, before a second from Hill and another from replacement Stuart Townsend sealed their success.
"It was a good win for us, especially after beating Saracens the previous week," said Devoto. "We had to back that game up, but it was the same before the Saracens game too, as we knew we had to follow up what was a good away win at Welford Road [against Leicester].
"Yes, we made a few mistakes against London Irish, but we've addressed them now and the good thing was that we just pushed through it. It obviously didn't help with the yellow cards, myself included, but this week has been great leading up to the weekend. You can see the intensity in training has really gone up, especially going into these big European games. We know we've got to increase the intensity because, as we've seen before, we could get caught napping. The boys, though, are really excited for this weekend."
This weekend's trip sees the Devonians travel to Glasgow looking to seal a spot in the Champions Cup quarter-finals. A solitary point will be enough to guarantee a last eight placing, but it's home advantage that is top of the agenda for the Chiefs, who want to finish Pool Two on a high, starting with the Warriors this weekend, then at home to La Rochelle on January 18.
Devoto added: "It's going to be tough. We've spoken about it being in our hands by having four great results already, but we've been up there and not got the result before. Glasgow are one of the best teams in Europe, so we'll have to be right on it to get the result. A home quarter-final would be massive for the club. At the moment, that's in our hands, but we've got to finish the job so that's really important for us."
This will be Devoto's first involvement in this year's Heineken Champions Cup, after picking up a neck injury in Round 3 of the Premiership Rugby Cup away at Worcester Warriors.
Three months have now passed since he was stretchered off at Sixways, but Devoto is back up and running and producing some notable displays in the Exeter midfield.
"It's a credit to the physios and the medical staff here, they've got me back fit and firing, which is fantastic," said Devoto. "Even just the intensity in training, and the competition for places, it's really fierce. Everyone wants to be part of these big games, so we're all driving each other. You've got the likes of Tom Hendrickson and Harvey Skinner who have been training really well, so you've got loads of guys chomping at the bit for game time and that brings the best out in us for sure."
Exeter's last trip to Scotstoun came two seasons ago which saw the Chiefs fall to a 28-21 defeat. However, the most recent meeting of the two clubs was in November at Sandy Park, when the Chiefs triumphed 34-18.
"After watching the first game down here, you could see it was extremely physical, and that they like to play from anywhere on the pitch," said Devoto. "The European competition gives you that exposure to the high-intensity games, I haven't played in it yet this season, but the boys have done well in high-pressure situations in this competition, and we will be looking to do the same in the coming weeks."
This weekend sees the first return for former Warriors star Stuart Hogg to Scotstoun, and since his arrival in October, he has more than made an impression on both fans, coaches and players here at Sandy Park.
"His confidence on the ball, he oozes that confidence and that brings the best out in us, training with him is great because you know you're going to get feedback here and there. To learn from someone of his calibre is just fantastic."