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Rob Baxter wants improvement from Exeter Chiefs on home soil

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 18, 2012

Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter hopes his men can build on their defeat at Leinster picture: Stephen McCarthy/Pinnacle

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Exeter Chiefs made a few people sit up and take notice once again with their display at Leinster last weekend on their Heineken Cup debut.

Now the challenge is to perform just as well this Saturday when French giants Clermont Auvergne arrive at Sandy Park for the Pool Five clash.

Head coach Rob Baxter knows home form is crucial in the group stage of the European competition.

Last term the Chiefs reached the last eight of the second tier Amlin Challenge Cup after winning all three of their group games at Sandy Park.

And Baxter is keen to ensure his players do not get carried away with the plaudits that have come their way on the back of the 9-6 loss against the defending champions.

"The challenge is for the players to show the same level of intensity as last week and make sure they perform at home," said Baxter.

"Every cup competition that has this pool stage element is massively built around how you perform at home.

"We've done a decent job in going to Leinster and getting a losing bonus point but that only really becomes of any worth for us if we perform well this weekend.

"The important thing for me now as head coach is to make sure everybody's feet stay on the ground. That's the first time we've done it, now the challenge is can we do it again, and again and again.

"That's what good players do, they don't just do it once off but again and again."

Having impressed against a Leinster side packed with internationals, the Chiefs players get the chance to do likewise against the household names in Clermont's squad.

The likes of Wales full-back Lee Byrne, former All Black Sitiveni Sivivatu and France trio Aurélien Rougerie, who skippers the side, Julien Bonnaire and youngster Wesley Fofana will pose a real test.

But if the home contingent back up their showing in Dublin, more international recognition could soon follow.

"With virtually every game in the Heineken Cup being televised it's a fantastic shop window," said Baxter.

"Some of our players have already been spoken of in higher terms because of going over to Leinster and doing what they did. They can back that up or they can not back it up.

"If they put in a good performance against Harlequins, if they put in a good performance against Leinster and if they can now put in a big performance against Clermont people have got to take notice.

"I hope that's part of the drive for our performance but the first Heineken Cup game at Sandy Park should be massive motivation for the players anyway."

Exeter officials are expecting a bumper crowd for the 6pm kick-off against the side third in the French top flight.

The Chiefs have a decent track record of games under floodlights at home and Baxter hopes the atmosphere will help inspire his players again this weekend in their historic first match in Europe's top club competition.

"It's another little marker in the recent history of the club," he said. "These games are fantastic reward for our supporters and players.

"This is what you do it all for and it's fantastic to hear it's likely to be a sell out. The atmosphere we can build at Sandy Park on a big evening is quite something."

Baxter is not expected to make many changes from the side that started against Leinster as he reported no new injury worries.

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