Planet Rugby

Battle for places drives Chiefs - Jess

31st October 2013 11:33

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Matt Jess Exeter Chiefs 2013

Matt Jess: Enjoys healthy competition

Winger Matt Jess says competition for places in and around the Exeter Chiefs squad is helping to drive standards up at the ambitious Devon club.

The Chiefs currently lie fourth in the Aviva Premiership and are top of Pool Two in this season's Heineken Cup following a solid opening to the 2013/14 season.

However, the 29-year-old insists everyone at Sandy Park knows the hard work must continue, starting with Friday's league trip to Sale Sharks.

Last season the Sharks recorded a first-ever top flight win over Rob Baxter's side when they turned round a 13-5 half time deficit to claim a 21-16 victory at the Salford City Stadium back in February.

Although Jess did not feature in that fixture, he knows from past experiences that the Sharks are a formidable force - particularly at home - and knows the Chiefs will need to be on top of their game if they are to emerge with anything from the contest.

Certainly the visitors will travel in bullish mood after they bagged a first bonus point win of the season in the league last Saturday when they overcame Worcester Warriors 40-6 at Sandy Park.

"I think we certainly have got a confident camp at the moment and that's down to some decent performances we've put in over the last few games," said Jess.

"However, we're very aware of how good the Premiership is and that Sale have some great players in their squad. They have some experienced heads there, they've been going well this season, so we can't take them lightly in any way.

"When we went up there last year, we got beat, and on their own patch they're a tough side to overcome. We have to make sure we turn up in good spirits and put in a solid performance.

"We haven't used last year's loss up there as a main focus, but we are aware of it. That's gone now and we've moved on.

"As I said, we know Sale will be a tough test for us up there, but obviously we have put in some decent performances of late.

"Hopefully, we can take the positives out of those games, together with the stuff we have been working on in training, and take it to Sale on Friday night."

With head coach Baxter likely to stick with many of the tried and trusted from last Saturday's win, Jess is aware that maintaining those high standards of performance are key - especially as there is a wealth of talent waiting in the wings should Baxter need to call upon them.

"I think we say it all the time, but we have strength in depth throughout the squad and we know if anyone goes down injured, we have guys waiting in the wings ready to come in and fill the void," he added.

"The main thing about it all, however, is that it's a squad effort, it's not the 15 guys out on the field, it's everyone within the squad who has an influence in what we do at the weekend. It's healthy competition, but it's great for the team and everyone can step in and do a job. I'm sure Rob [Baxter] and Ali [Hepher] are very pleased that they can do that."

Indeed, Baxter is delighted with the make-up of his current squad and the options he has available to him, not just for this week's game with Sale, but also the upcoming LV= Cup games with Harlequins and Bath.

"The squad is looking OK," said Baxter.

"I don't think we picked up anything from last weekend apart from bumps and bruises, so the squad is starting to thicken up as we go along. We've got the likes of Luke Arscott, Jack Nowell, James Hanks and Romana Graham all getting training under their belts.

"We're looking forward to this weekend, as well as the LV= Cup in a couple of weeks, because we have a lot of players who are chomping at the bit to get some game time. I think we will unleash quite a fresh, enthusiastic group of players over the next couple of weeks."

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