Exeter Chiefs scrum-half Haydn Thomas admits today’s Aviva Premiership game against London Wasps marks an important time in their season, but the biggest pressure they face comes from within.
The sixth-placed Chiefs are unbeaten in the league at home and only six points behind leaders Harlequins with the season nearing its midpoint.
Their Heineken Cup campaign resumes next week with back-to-back fixtures against Scarlets before a block of Premiership matches against Gloucester, Bath and Northampton Saints.
The results of those games could turn a good season so far into a great one, but Thomas is refusing to put too much emphasis on individual games, such as today’s match against Wasps.
He said: “It has been no secret we want to be ambitious and we did well last year finishing fifth. A good win this week would put us in the right place. We’re not looking long term, just this Saturday.
“I wouldn’t say it is a must-win game but we want to keep that home record and we will do everything we can to win it.
“We always do well at Sandy Park but it is a massive test now against Wasps. Everybody wants to put in a good performance just to keep us going.”
The real pressure on the Chiefs’ squad at the moment comes from within the club. A number of players were given chances to impress in the recent LV= Cup wins against London Welsh and Ospreys.
Back Jack Nowell did enough to earn a place in last week’s starting line-up to face London Irish and was part of a winning team. He could be the first of many talented youngsters putting the likes of Thomas under pressure as the season goes on.
“There is always pressure on everybody in the squad,” said Thomas. “Nobody can sit back and just take things for granted. I think everybody constantly strives to get better. In the case of Jack Nowell is it fantastic to see a youngster like him coming through.
“I don’t think he will be the only one and it won’t be long before we see more because we have a fantastic set-up here with the Academy.”
Nowell will get another chance on the right wing after impressing many on his Premiership debut a week ago.
The Chiefs’ 27-23 win at London Irish was their first league win away from home all season.
“I think we have to back up our away win,” said Thomas. “We worked hard for that but we have to look to build on it now we are back at home.
“For me personally, I haven’t really had a problem with our away form. I knew we would pick up a victory at some point, we are never scared about going away from home and it is not a major issue for us. It was nice to pick up the four points last week, just because of the situation with the league.”
The Chiefs completed a league double over Wasps last season but Thomas would not be drawn on the game plan, as they look to repeat the feat.
“They are a different team to last year and a lot better all round,” he said. “It was probably a tough place to be last year but I am not surprised to see them come back doing well this year.
“We talked about how to deal with them, as we do against other sides, most weeks. We look at their key threats and put a plan together of how we can deal with that. I think we are quite comfortable about how we are going into the weekend with it.”
Exeter Chiefs: @Arscott; Nowell, Dollman, Shoemark, Jess; Steenson, Thomas; Sturgess, Whitehead, Rimmer; Hayes (capt), Hanks; Mumm, Scaysbrook, Baxter. Replacements: Alcott, Moon, Tui, Muldowney, Johnson, Barrett, Mieres, Naqelevuki.