ROB Baxter expects the intensity to crank up a notch in training this week as Exeter Chiefs prepare to play their first pre-season match.
The head coach is taking a 35-man squad to South Wales on Saturday (3pm) to face the Scarlets in a match played with four 20-minute periods.
Every fit senior player is likely to get a run out at some stage against the Llanelli-based side as competition for places heats up ahead of the start of the Aviva Premiership campaign.
However, the most important thing for Baxter is that the players try out everything they have been working on this summer to see what works and what doesn't.
"There'll start to be a bit of edginess crank up over the week," said Baxter.
"The guys are very aware every pre-season game is important, everyone's got an opportunity now to stake a claim for where they want to be for the first Premiership game of the season.
"It does get exciting now, but I'm very aware you have to approach pre-season matches to make sure you get the most you can to review after the game.
"We know how we want to approach things, we know the combinations we want to look at in this first game, but we also know we've got two or three weeks to fine-tune things that aren't where we want them to be."
Baxter has made seven signings this summer but three of them – Don Armand, Dave Lewis and Greg Bateman – are already injured so will play no part this weekend.
Tom James, Fetu'u Vainikolo and Ceri Sweeney are set to feature against the Scarlets, while lock Romana Graham could arrive next week if he is granted a visa.
Baxter knows the three recent arrivals will be keen to shine in an Exeter jersey.
"The new guys want to play and want to show themselves," he said. "Any player will tell you you need those games of rugby under your belt to really feel part of a club.
"It's great that we'll get everybody involved this weekend. We've got an exciting group of players and we want to be ambitious in the way we play, that's not going to change."
As well as the summer signings, youngsters Stuart Townsend – who was flown back from England under-18s duty – and Sam Blanchet are included in the squad.
However, the likes of Sireli Naqelevuki, James Hanks and Hoani Tui are also absent due to knocks.
Former skipper Tom Hayes is likely to get some time on the pitch as he recovers from a back operation.
Baxter has opted to make Dean Mumm his captain for the coming campaign, but hopes Hayes will still play an important role off the field.
"Tom has done a fantastic job for us, I can't speak highly enough of the way he's captained the side but also the way he's played," said Baxter.
"He's been an integral part of a side that's come through the Championship and started to solidify its base in the Premiership and get into the Heineken Cup.
"He's done a fantastic job but at the minute we're not 100 per cent certain how much of the season he'll play, that makes it difficult.
"You want your captain available, both fitness wise and on performance, as often as possible and that's still a bit sketchy with Tom.
"It's fantastic to be able to pick a guy like Dean, who has not only played a lot of rugby at a high level but has done that in a captaincy capacity and has also been a great guy while he's been at the club.
"Tom is still going to be a very important member of the senior squad and will still have a very important leadership role."
Exeter Chiefs squad v Scarlets: Arscott, Dollman, Nowell, James, Jess, Vainikolo, Hill, Shoemark, Whitten, Steenson, Sweeney, Slade, Thomas, Chudley, Townsend; Sturgess, Moon, Rimmer, Brown, Mitchell, L Cowan-Dickie, Yeandle, Whitehead, Mumm, Welch, Hayes, Carrick-Smith, Ewers, Johnson, White, Scaysbrook, S Blanchet, Conlon, Phillips, Horstmann