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Steenson relishing Leinster clash after flying start in Europe

Exeter fly-half Gareth Steenson is relishing the prospect of Sunday's heavyweight European Champions Cup clash against Leinster.

Both sides are unbeaten following the early Pool Three flurries, but this weekend's Sandy Park encounter and a Dublin return meeting in seven days' time could go some way towards deciding who secures a quarter-final place.

Exeter have won their last nine games in all competitions and currently lead the Aviva Premiership by an eight-point margin, while they are unbeaten on home soil for a year.

But three-time European champions Leinster will arrive in Devon on the back of bonus point victories over Glasgow and Montpellier, giving them a two-point advantage over Exeter as group leaders.

"We've never really started well in Europe before, and it was a bit of a focus for us this year that we had to get off to a good start," Steenson said.

"Over the last four or five years, we've very much just tried to keep on building the progress we have made.

"We've played now in the (European) knockout stages, and in a Premiership final and lost it, and then gone back and won one.

"That has shown how much the club has grown, and we now feel we are in a good position. We have got a squad of guys together now who have a good understanding of what makes us tick as a group.

"It's very exciting going into Sunday's fixture."

Saracens, one of only three teams in this season's Champions Cup with a maximum 10 points from two games, host Pool Two rivals Clermont Auvergne on Sunday.

Saracens, conquerors of Clermont in the final seven months ago, will be without injured forwards like Maro Itoje and Schalk Brits, while they are on the back of three successive Premiership defeats.

"We are a few players down, we're missing some talented guys, but what we have at Saracens is a strong squad who all pull in the same direction," captain Brad Barritt told www.saracens.com.

"Teams go through an injury crisis at some point - that's part and parcel of the modern game - but we are blessed to have some unbelievable players and characters in our squad.

"We have experienced guys who have been in these kind of situations before, and there is a real steeliness and resolve around the group that you need when things aren't going your way sometimes."

Wasps, meanwhile, face a tough Pool One trip to free-scoring French challengers La Rochelle on Sunday - Harlequins host Ulster in the same group - knowing that defeat would dent their quarter-final hopes.

Tournament debutants La Rochelle have already accounted for Quins and Ulster in bonus point fashion, and Wasps rugby director Dai Young said: "If we think we can defend and hit them on the counter-attack, we will lose, so we've got to take the game to them.

"We are playing against a fantastic team over the next two weekends. La Rochelle are playing really well at this moment in time. They've got quality players right across the board.

"They are very much a momentum team. If they get on the front foot, they are going to cause problems and score tries. It's up to us, when we get the ball, to make sure we keep it.

"We have to play our game, keep the tempo high and take our opportunities when they arise."

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