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Exeter Chiefs target quick start against Toulon

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 03, 2013

By Nigel Walrond

Exeter Chiefs will have to wait to see if Jonny Wilkinson is picked to play for Toulon at Sandy Park this weekend. Picture: David Jones/PA

Exeter Chiefs will have to wait to see if Jonny Wilkinson is picked to play for Toulon at Sandy Park this weekend. Picture: David Jones/PA

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Exeter Chiefs assistant coach Ali Hepher insists they will attack European champions Toulon from the off when they visit Sandy Park on Saturday.

Heineken Cup Pool Two leaders Exeter are level on six points with the second-placed Frenchmen, whose squad is packed full of some of the biggest names in world rugby.

Jonny Wilkinson, Bryan Habana, Drew Mitchell, Bakkies Botha, Matt Giteau and Carl Hayman are just a few of the stars who could be on show, though England prop Andrew Sheridan will be missing with a neck injury that could end his career.

However, despite the enormous wealth of talent they possess, Toulon travel to Devon boasting a dreadful away record this season.

They have lost their last five games on the road, with their latest defeat a 23-0 thrashing at Stade Francais last weekend, and have won only once away from their Stade Mayol home all season, and that was at French Top 14 Championship bottom side Biarritz.

"We are not going to shy away from the challenge," Hepher declared. "We are going to go for it.

"The way we play is exciting, it is a good brand of rugby to watch, and hopefully it is good for the supporters, but we don't really do it for the watch value.

"We do it because it is effective, and we saw last Saturday how we can put a very good side like Bath, and a team with a very good defence, under pressure, and we could have come away with a very good win.

"We will work this week on one or two things we have got to tidy up from Saturday, but we will certainly go into the Toulon game with the same attitude."

Having come close to defeating then European champions Leinster last season, and also leading at half-time in their home game against beaten Heineken Cup finalists Clermont Auvergne, Hepher said that the quality of the Toulon line-up held no fears for the Chiefs.

"The only fears we have got are not taking them on, and not throwing everything into the game," he said.

"That will certainly be our focus right from the start. We will attack them, and get in among them defensively as well, which we showed at Bath we are very capable of doing, and Sandy Park will hopefully be a tough place for them to come.

"We are really excited about the game, and excited for our supporters, and we will really be up for it come Saturday."

Despite having a back division to die for, Toulon have only scored one try in their past five matches, in the 25-22 defeat at Oyonnax in late September, and have been relying heavily on the boot of England's 2003 World Cup hero Wilkinson to keep them in contention in matches.

He did not feature, however, in the defeat at Stade Francais, with Frederic Michalak instead wearing the number ten shirt.

Exeter will be buoyed by the way they played at the Recreation Ground against the Premiership's third-placed side Bath, where they outscored their hosts two tries to nil but were undone by the deadly boot of fly-half George Ford, who kicked all of Bath's 21 points.

"We could not have been prouder of the players on Saturday," said Hepher. "They did exactly what we wanted them to do, we created opportunities and we got ourselves in the game right from the start.

"Bath like to begin quickly, and we countered that and got the first try with the score in the corner. It was pleasing all round, and we are really happy with where we are."

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