Energised Chiefs gear up for Castres
By Mark Stevens
Nic White believes Exeter Chiefs have generated ‘good energy’ ahead of their crunch Heineken Champions Cup clash with Castres at Sandy Park on Sunday (1pm).
Saturday’s derby day victory over Bristol Bears not only helped the Devonians to extend their lead at the top of the Gallagher Premiership, but gave them the perfect boost ahead of what is a crucial fortnight for the club in European competition.
With only two qualification rounds left in the Champions Cup, just four points separate Munster, Castres, Gloucester and the Chiefs in Pool Two of the competition, meaning any of the sides can potentially qualify for the knock-out stages.
Aussie international White, no stranger to tackling Castres having spent two years in France before moving to the Chiefs, says overcoming the reigning Top 14 champions will be a stiff assignment, but one he and his team-mates are relishing.
“Saturday was a hard win as Bristol really turned up to play,” he said. “You can see how tough the competition is this year, so any win is a good win.Being top is obviously a good place to be, it was important to be back in that winners circle again, and it’s created a good energy going back into Europe.
“We know it wasn’t perfect, but a win is a win and we’ll take the points.Right now, everyone is fighting for every point and it’s making for some pretty tough rugby.”
A broken bone in the foot hampered part of White’s current campaign, but the gifted scrum-half has since returned to action in recent weeks and is now looking to kick on.
“Castres will be physical and they’ll look to make it a real dog fight,” warned White.“We’re not going to get anything easy and we’ll have to be on our game against them.That said, the game against Bristol has prepared us well for the weekend because it was physical, it was tough and we had to fight for everything against them.
“We know from past experience that Europe is at a different level again.It’s a good step up from where we, so we need to go up another level and really look to put in a big performance.”
Despite the physical nature of his side’s win against the Bears, Exeter’s Director of Rugby Rob Baxter was able to report a clean bill of health from those on duty.At the same time, England and British Lions winger Jack Nowell enjoyed a decent 40-minute cameo for the Exeter Braves in their win at Gloucester, whilst the likes of Alex Cuthbert, Olly Woodburn, Dave Ewers, James Freeman and Ollie Atkins are edging their way closer to playing returns.