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Exeter Chiefs will travel to Northampton with confidence

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 07, 2012

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Exeter Chiefs full-back Phil Dollman says his side will have to hit top form again this weekend, if they are to overcome Northampton Saints at Franklin's Gardens for the first time.

The Saints have been obdurate opponents to the Devon club since their promotion to the Aviva Premiership in 2010.

Chiefs won their first meeting at Sandy Park but have lost twice in Northampton. Exeter were also in line for a top-four finish and a place in the play-offs last term before losing to Saints in their final home game.

Dollman said: "Northampton are an established quality side. Saints put in good performances week in and week out and we've been on the end of a few of those.

"I think we have put that behind us and last season is history now. We don't really look back on that performance but we want to prove a point against Northampton. We've got to really be on our mettle against a strong side at Northampton this weekend."

The Chiefs could hardly travel to Northampton in better form. They opened their Premiership campaign with a stunning six-try, 43-6 home win over Sale Sharks last weekend.

Dollman believes the Devon side's hard work in pre-season puts them in a good position to tackle a demanding set of opening fixtures.

He said: "It was a good win and it is something we can move on from and try to be better this week. Saints will be tough opposition so we have got to be putting in another 80-minute performance.

"It was the result of a lot of hard work in pre-season, both in fitness and skillwise. We've been working hard on team plays and it is coming to fruition now at just the right time, when we want to be playing our best rugby.

"It comes with confidence as a squad. We want to establish ourselves as a top Premiership side and that is the way we need to play. We need to play with tempo and challenge sides all over the pitch and that is something we are looking to do.

"There were a lot more chances and Sale had chances on top of that as well. We did well to keep them out and finish off our own opportunities. We have worked on that as well over pre-season, being clinical as a back line and it showed on a weekend.

"As long as we keep creating those opportunities against top sides, we will be happy and hopefully the tries will come with that.

"We've not had the best results there so that is something we will be looking to improve upon and get a positive result out of the game.

"Saints are a big physical side, they will pose a danger across the pitch. Their backs have got pace and good footwork so we've got to be strong in defence and match them up physically and then launch when we get the ball.

"They are going to be hitting us with all guns blazing and that is what you expect in the Premiership so we have got to be on top of form."

The Heineken Cup will place greater demands on the Chiefs' squad this season. A place in Europe's top rugby competition also brings higher expectations.

"I think there is greater expectation this season," said Dollman. "Within the squad, we expect to be better again and outside, people will be looking for us to push on from last year.

"You don't really think about it too much from week to week but clearly, if we're meeting those expectations then we'll be happy.

"Any kind of momentum and positives we can take from these early performances is vital, especially in a competition like the Heineken Cup.

"If we've got momentum going into the Heineken Cup with a positive mindset. We want to take some good form from the Premiership into that."

Dollman hopes the Chiefs' unselfish work ethic can lead to more tries at Franklin's Gardens this weekend.

They managed just three points in a 33-3 defeat at Saints last term.

He said: "Across the board, we look to put the ball in the best possible positions.

"If it is a tighthead prop in space on the wing then that is the option to choose. The guys are picking the space well and hopefully we can do that this weekend."

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