Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Chiefs relishing run-in - Hunter

Exeter forwards coach Rob Hunter says the Chiefs are relishing the business-end of a season that has seen them emerge as major players.

They are firmly in contention for an Aviva Premiership play-off place with just four league games left, while attention switches to European matters on Saturday night with a home Challenge Cup quarter-final against Newcastle.

"Every week is a big match, and that's how you want it," Hunter said.

"You spend all those months doing pre-season, and all those months in the season itself, so it would be a shame to do all that work and then see the season fizzle out.

"For us, this is a big game. For us to get used to being in those important games, you have to be in them, and that is what we are experiencing now.

"Every point, every kick and every tackle, they all count now, and that's a good place to be."

Exeter, who crushed Newcastle 46-17 in the Premiership last month, are without England wing Jack Nowell - he rests a knock - but prop Tomas Francis is back from Wales squad duty, and there are also starts for Ben Moon, Tom James and Byron McGuigan.

Newport Gwent Dragons and Cardiff Blues go head to head at Rodney Parade on Saturday in the first all-Welsh European clash for 15 years.

And the game's significance is not lost on the Dragons' Wales number eight Taulupe Faletau, who said: "It is definitely the biggest game I've been involved in during my time at the Dragons.

"You have to keep calm in these derbies. We've got a lot of talent out wide, and they just play what is in front of them at the moment.

"So we need to be calm, get it to them and they will throw it around when it needs to be thrown around. It's nice knowing they are outside us and they can make things happen."

Wales forwards Sam Warburton and Gethin Jenkins both feature in the Blues starting XV, with Jenkins' Test squad colleague Scott Andrews also returning among six changes following last Friday's Guinness PRO12 defeat against Ulster.

"We are looking forward to the game, and it's vital we have the right attitude. We won't take them lightly, and we understand the magnitude of the game," Blues defence coach Dale McIntosh said.

"It's the biggest game we've had for a few years, and the atmosphere will be very special with it being a Welsh derby and the chance to make the semi-finals up for grabs."

London Irish and Edinburgh will conclude the weekend's quarter-final action when they meet at the Madejski Stadium on Sunday.

Wing Topsy Ojo features for Irish as a solitary change from the side that edged out Newcastle last weekend, while Edinburgh welcome back Scotland front-row forwards Alasdair Dickinson and Ross Ford following this season's RBS 6 Nations Championship.

"Topsy has played in plenty of big games, so it is fantastic to draw on a man of his experience," Irish head coach Glenn Delaney said.

"Preparation has been thorough, and hopefully we will be good enough to get across the line against a strong Edinburgh side."


From Belfast Telegraph