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Exeter Chiefs will turn full attention to European competition despite pressures in Premiership

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 06, 2012

Chris Whitehead

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Exeter Chiefs hooker Chris Whitehead has urged his side to hold nothing back when they return to Heineken Cup rugby this weekend.

The Chiefs, unbeaten in their last five games in all competitions, take on Scarlets at Parc y Scarlets as European rugby's top club competition resumes on Saturday.

Both sides lost their opening two fixtures in Pool Five against group favourites Leinster and Clermont Auvergne.

Despite the remote possibility of Chiefs progressing to the latter stages of the competition, Whitehead says they are giving it their full attention in back-to-back games against the Welsh side.

He said: "It has been a really great experience for us and we go into the Heineken Cup with another two games now. It is another experience and a chance to go out and play some European rugby. It is fantastic for the boys and a massive bonus for us.

"We lost our first two Heineken Cup games and that was frustrating but it also gives us nothing to lose against Scarlets. That is great for us because we don't have to worry about the pressures involved.

"Whatever we get from those games will be a massive bonus for us. If we can keep our momentum and our performances going, we will be there or thereabouts in the league as well."

Whitehead still feels the Chiefs can improve upon their recent performances. He said: "It is all about bringing it all together.

"We're not necessarily putting in an 80-minute performance together at the moment, we can still be an awful lot better but we're coming away with wins."

The Exeter club earned their first away victory in this Premiership season in late November. That win against London Irish was followed by another league win, at home to Wasps last weekend.

Chiefs lie fifth in the Aviva Premiership with everything to play for in a tight league. However, the recent break for two LV= Cup games allowed them to rest many of their senior players.

Whitehead said: "We've done what we've needed to do by getting two wins in the Premiership and it keeps us in the running for a top-six or top-four finish – that is what we should really be aiming for.

"We are in a great position as a squad at the moment. There are lot of players who have played a lot of rugby and they were fortunate to have a couple of weeks off recently, so everyone is really fresh. It is important for us to keep a bit of momentum.

"Against Wasps it was about sticking to what we do really well and getting our forwards into the game with some big carries and go-forward."

Whitehead was also pleased with his side's perseverance. Chiefs were drawing 20-20 at half-time against Wasps, having trailed for periods of the opening 40 minutes.

They also overcame a minor injustice when Tom Varndell scored for the visitors, despite an apparent knock-on and forward pass in the build-up.

Whitehead said: "Good teams are going to have good moments and [our head coach] Rob Baxter is a massive enforcer in making sure we don't let that fluster us.

"Decisions are not always going to go our way and we can't control that. We can only control what we do on the pitch. For us, it is all about staying tight, staying together and coming back. Then it is all about us creating good moments as well."

Read more from Exeter Express and Echo

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