Leicester Tigers second row Graham Kitchener has stressed how close he feels the Premiership title race will be this season.
Kitchener believes his side must earn bonus points wherever possible in order to remain at the business end of the table.
The Tigers have won two of their opening three fixtures against Worcester Warriors and Newcastle Falcons, both of which came with a coveted try-scoring bonus point. Their only defeat of the campaign thus far came as an injury-hit squad salvaged a losing bonus point at Bath.
"It is crucial that we keep picking up those bonus points," Kitchener told the Leicester Mercury.
"The boys were disappointed to lose at Bath but, at the end of the day, it was another point to our tally.
"If you look at the three rounds that have been played so far anybody can beat anybody, everybody is giving each other tough games.
"So it is going to be tight, particularly when the international games come up and teams find their top players missing."
Kitchener managed to get himself on the score-sheet in his side's heavy win over the Falcons, swooping to dive over the line following Manu Tuilagi's bruising midfield burst.
This marked his first appearance of the season following surgery on a foot injury.
"Personally, it was good to play 80 minutes, although it felt like hell at the time - the lungs were feeling it," said Kitchener.
"From a team perspective, we were a little bit loose. But we got what we wanted from the game. Some of the guys got games under their belts and we also picked up five points."
With that successful outing now under his belt, Kitchener is looking forward to the challenges the Tigers face in the coming weeks. First up is a trip to Sandy Park to face the Exeter Chiefs.
"Whenever we go away from home it is tough," he added.
"Teams always seem to raise the intensity.
"But the crowd down at Exeter are great and it's an atmospheric stadium.
"It was a fair old slog for us down there last year but we came out on top in a very difficult game, and we are expecting nothing less this time."