Tom James has warned his Exeter Chiefs team-mates their discipline has to be squeaky clean this weekend if they want to beat his old club Cardiff Blues.
The wing knows British and Irish Lions marksman Leigh Halfpenny will punish any indiscretion from the Sandy Park outfit when they open their Heineken Cup campaign on Sunday (12.45pm).
However, the 26-year-old believes the Chiefs can beat the Welsh region if they stop the visitors’ key players and impose themselves on the match.
Having joined Exeter from the Blues at the end of last season, James knows all about the threats they pose. And he thinks they should target 20-year-old fly-half Rhys Patchell to prevent his former employers getting a foothold.
“They have plenty of spirit,” James said of his old Cardiff team-mates. “There’ll be hard carries from Bradley Davies and we can’t give any penalties away or Leigh Halfpenny will kick them all.
“Rhys Patchell is a youngster, we’ve got to put him under pressure. He’s a very talented player, good with the ball in hand and he’s got a good kicking game. Then there’s Alex Cuthbert, who is a try-scoring machine.
“If we can slow those players down and stop them on the gain line we can bring our game into play.”
Exeter and Cardiff are in Pool Two in the European competition, with last season’s winners Toulon and Glasgow also in the group.
With home advantage making such a difference in the continental competition, James knows it is important the Chiefs start well.
“You’ve got to win every home game, and hopefully sneak a win or bonus points away, if you want to get through your group,” he said. “You’ve got to start well and keep the momentum going to keep the points ticking over.”
Chiefs colleagues go into Sunday’s match on a high following their 29-12 win at Gloucester in the Aviva Premiership last Sunday.
Having come off second best against Leicester the week before, former Wales international James was delighted with the turn around in form. And he said it showed what Exeter are capable of when they play with a purpose from the off.
He said: “After the Leicester game we all had a kick up the backside and all fronted up at Gloucester and put in a good performance.
“In the first half against Leicester we gave too many penalties away and went in 15-0 down. Against Gloucester we cut out the errors and the penalties and defended well.
“We lived off their penalties and did what we had to do.
“We went out and played with a bit of flair,” he added. “We gave Leicester too much room and too much respect, but when we do what we do well it works. We performed from the first whistle against Gloucester and it showed in the result.”
James, who spent six seasons with Cardiff, is enjoying his time with the Chiefs so far, having started every game and crossed for two tries.
“From the first game I’ve been making breaks and scoring tries and that’s what I wanted to do, bring something to the team,” he said.