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Hepher likens Exeter's European trajectory to Leinster and Saracens dynasties

By PA
Exeter Chiefs v Glasgow Warriors – Heineken Champions Cup – Pool B – Sandy Park

Exeter head coach Ali Hepher is relishing “a fantastic opportunity” to tackle French giants Toulouse in a mouthwatering Heineken Champions Cup showdown next Sunday. Victory for the Chiefs would put them in a strong position to reach the quarter-finals after they began their European title defence with a thumping 42-0 victory over Glasgow at Sandy Park.

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“It’s a massive game,” Hepher said. “They are a tough ask, but it is a fantastic opportunity for us to really test ourselves at the top end of the competition.

“We are in a tough pool with some very good sides in it, and the margins in this group are going to be really tight.

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“If we get to nine points in the group next week, you are looking in a very good place. We have got the appetite for the fight in those games.”

Roared on by a 2,000 crowd – the first spectators allowed into Sandy Park since March – Exeter delivered a comprehensive win that put them firmly among the early Pool B pace-setters.

Chiefs’ former Glasgow stars Stuart Hogg and Jonny Gray scored tries, while there were also touchdowns for number eight Sam Simmonds, wing Olly Woodburn, lock Jonny Hill and skipper Jack Yeandle, with Joe Simmonds kicking six conversions.

It was Exeter’s fourth successive bonus-point victory in domestic and European competitions this term.

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“What we saw in the Premiership and following through to Europe is that level of confidence that they know how to win games, they know how to deliver,” Hepher added.

“The pleasing thing is that inner confidence, that inner belief has gone to a new level. That is superb, and means we can kick on and go after more trophies.

“You just look at rugby history. It took Leinster a long time, but then they knocked in three (European titles), Wasps and Saracens both came strong in Europe after losing a few games early on.

“We’ve done our fair share of losing, but we’ve learned along the way. It is really exciting to be around, to see these guys flourish.

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“You are not certain to get through in the pool with four wins. Bonus points along the way help, and we won’t know until it unfolds.

“If you look at the group, there are a lot of five-point wins already, and you have got to see what sides do in opposition as you go through the pool.”

Hepher, meanwhile, paid tribute to the Exeter supporters as Chiefs were watched at home for the first time since they beat Bath nine months ago.

“The main thing was getting the fans back,” he said.

“I felt quite emotional when the lads came out and got such a warm round of applause for last season.

“We’ve done well when we have had to play and do it in isolation, but supporters always help, and they are phenomenal down here.

“It was a bit sad that they didn’t get to share the end of last season with us. Today, it felt more like 4,000 than 2,000 people in the ground.”

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Shaylen 1 hours ago
Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink

If France, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland got together and all changed their eligibility laws in the same way SA has it would be absolutely bonkers. All players from all nations involved in Europe would be fair game as would their coaches. The investment in rugby would be supercharged as teams would rush to create dream teams. Transfer markets would be super charged, salary caps may change, private investment would grow as rich backers first buy clubs and then put money into their clubs in an effort to land the best players. The richest clubs and franchises would benefit most but money and players would move across borders at a steady flow. Suddenly countries like Wales and Scotland would have a much larger pool of players to select from who would be developed and improved in systems belonging to their rivals within superstar squads while their clubs receive large sums in the transfer market. The Six Nations would experience a big boost as the best players become available all the time. The Champions cup would become even more fiercely contested as the dream teams clash. Fan engagement would grow as fans would follow their favourite players creating interest in the game across the continent. Transfer markets and windows would become interesting events in themselves, speculation would drive it and rumours of big transfers and interest in players would spread. All of this is speculation and much of it would not eventuate straight away but just like in football the spread of players and talent would create these conditions over time. The transfer markets in European football is proof of this. Football had the same club vs country debate eons ago and favoured an open system. This has made it the largest game in the world with global interest and big money. Rugby needs to embrace this approach in the long run as well

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Jon 7 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

This is a bit dramatic for me, I think the Rebels and Force cultures would be very strong, and if a player is chosen from either, you can be confident they are in a good head space and ready. Whether they quite have the technical or tactical foundations of the other two states is where one would way their risk of selection. I see no need for Schmidt to worry about that risk in this squad. The main reason I could see a predominance of players from Brumbies and Reds, is simple cohesion. What might the coaching group make of what’s lacking in the Tahs, and to a lesser extent Rebels and Force’s, franchise? Certainly sides (players) that are running irish plays like we saw from that lovely McDermott long ball with have a head start. I hope the players can continue it at International level. Really liked what I saw of Wright (don’t know player focus and just hadn’t seen a lot of him anyway) in that game, can see him being a glue in a Wallaby side too. A with the similar worry of selecting players like Ryan, I think it unfounded to worry so much about forward balance at the moment. Including both Wright and Skelton in the same lineout is not going to lose you games gainst Wales. Nor will any unknown weakenss Wales might find in Ryan be exploited to any great extent. It is the perfect time to introduce such a young player. What other shortcuts might Schmidt want to make now, just a year out from hosting BIL? When Gamble came on the scene I thought he had a Pocock ability to break game apart along with performing the role of a openside well. I would be very keen to drop Leota/Hooper for Gamble, and in your squad make up, include Uru as a lock. Did you forget to remove Vunivalu from your team? Would you have Meafou in your squad if you could?

114 Go to comments
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