Henry Slade says that “history means nothing” ahead of Exeter’s crunch Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final clash against Leinster on Saturday.
It is just six months since the Chiefs conquered Europe, claiming a maiden title after beating French challengers Racing 92 in Bristol.
They barely had time to gather breath following that memorable triumph, with the current campaign starting just four weeks after the previous one finished as Exeter claimed a European and domestic double by defeating Wasps at Twickenham.
Chiefs’ reign as European champions will end if Leinster topple them at Sandy Park.
Only four teams – Leinster, Leicester, Toulon and Saracens – have successfully defended the European Cup in its 26-year history.
The Irish heavyweights, chasing a record fifth European Cup triumph this season, play their 16th quarter-final – and they have won eight of the last 10.
“We know how hard they fight for everything,” Exeter and England centre Slade said.
“There are a few areas where we are going to have to be really strong and really smart. We’ve got to give them the respect they deserve, but not too much, because we want to be the ones being the aggressors.
“History means nothing. It’s all about what we are doing in our next game.
“It (last season) was brilliant and an unbelievable time, but it is the past now. We know the quality Leinster have got and what they are going to bring, and we want to get out at the weekend and do ourselves justice.
“You have to have that genuine belief. I am sure Leinster are in exactly the same boat, having absolute faith in what they are doing.
“Leinster historically are very, very good in this competition. We are a fair bit newer to it, but we won it last year and we are wanting to carry on from where we left off.
“We’ve been through some lows together and some highs, and I think we’ve come off them and learnt things about each other.
“I feel like we are in a good place at the minute, but it doesn’t come without a lot of hard work.”
Slade, who missed England’s comprehensive Guinness Six Nations defeat against a Leinster-studded Ireland team last month because of injury, started four games in that tournament.
Defeats against Ireland, Scotland and Wales consigned England to a fifth-placed finish, and Slade added: “It was massively disappointing.
“To finish in fifth doesn’t feel like a fair result of how much work we put in over the tournament and in training each week. It is frustrating.
“Although we got off to a bad start against Scotland – the performance wasn’t anywhere near where we want to be – I thought against Italy we showed signs of wanting to throw the ball about more and playing a more attacking game, and the Wales game we did more of that.
“We didn’t get much go our way that game, and then France was a really good performance and great result against a really good side.
“To bookend the tournament with disappointing performances was frustrating, but I thought in the middle of it we did a lot of good.”
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