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Clermont defeat could give Chiefs their inspiration against Leinster

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 18, 2013

Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter has worked to ensure his players learn from their Heineken Cup experiences this season picture: Dan Mullan/Pinnacle

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Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter spent a large part of this week assessing the damage inflicted on his side by Clermont Auvergne during a 46-3 defeat last weekend.

The French side completed their Heineken Cup double over Baxter's men with a performance that left him with much to ponder in the days that followed.

Many have said there was little the Devon side could have done to stop the likes of Wesley Fofana, David Skrela and Napolioni Nalaga in full flow.

However, such thoughts have never been a part of the Chiefs' make-up since they won promotion to the Aviva Premiership in 2010.

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"You have to accept the reasons why you lose and the mistakes you make," said Baxter.

"I think that is the important thing, you have to be prepared to say you were not good enough on the day and there are things you can learn from it. We think we are pretty good at doing that.

"The experience of playing in Clermont is probably worth playing a dozen Premiership games – that's how you have to look at it.

"The things you learn, if you are prepared to look at it, will, down the line, improve us a side.

"My ambition would be to take a team back to Clermont and do better than what we did. That is very much how you have to approach it. You have to use the experience as a positive and be prepared to learn the tough lessons rather than dismiss it as a one-off or write it off.

"It is very easy to do that and say no one goes to Clermont and wins and they haven't lost at home in 54 games. We haven't done that at all, we have examined the game in detail, looked at things we've done well and badly.

"We will use those things to make us a better side."

The Chiefs have another opportunity to make their mark in their debut Heineken Cup season when they host the reigning European champions Leinster at Sandy Park tomorrow evening.

The Irishmen need a win, preferably with a bonus point, to keep their own hopes of progression alive. Baxter said: "It is a massive challenge, but is there any better game for us to look forward to?

"Having the European Cup holders at home at a sell-out Sandy Park, with something riding on the last game of the pool, is a fantastic game for us to be involved in."

And it could be that the beating at Stade Marcel Michelin last week that holds the key to a potential upset.

"I'm not going to divulge everything we learned," said Baxter, "but there was an intensity and physicality about some of the things that Clermont did that we have to learn to cope with and introduce into our own game.

"That's obviously a big lesson for us. That's what we have to be able to withstand and bring to the big games ourselves.

"There was also an element of control and when to change tempo and how they created space that maybe we don't do.

"In combining those few things, we are already starting to see some rewards in the training we are doing; eventually, they will come through in games."

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