Chiefs urged to enjoy HC debut
Rob Baxter wants Exeter to enjoy the experience when they make their Heineken Cup debut against European rugby's current standard-bearers.
Baxter insists the Chiefs will "go for it" against reigning European champions Leinster in their Dublin backyard on Saturday.
Exeter have already shown their quality this season in beating reigning Aviva Premiership champions Harlequins, while they ran current league leaders Northampton close and accounted for Saracens.
"We are slightly above where we targeted in the Premiership given the fixtures we have had," Baxter said.
"That is pretty good since we've played all of the top four teams from last season. We are working hard to establish ourselves in the Premiership, and we've tended to do well in big, difficult circumstances.
"Now I've got to hope again that this weekend brings the best out of us. We will enjoy the experience and we will come out of it a better team.
"We'll approach Leinster in a similar manner to the Harlequins game. There is no point saying we will go there, kick the ball behind them and see if we can defend for 80 minutes.
"We will only get better as a side if we enjoy the 80 minutes - that is the only way to improve. I don't think it's giving our game-plan away to say we will go for it, because that is what we intend to do."
Ireland international centre Gordon D'Arcy accepts that Leinster's life in Europe will not get any easier this season as they chase an unprecedented third title on the bounce.
"When you start winning you become a target for every team," Leinster star D'Arcy said. "And that is something you either accept and rise to, or it is something you crumble under.
"The attitude in this squad is to rise to that challenge and defend everything we have with everything we have in our locker.
"It was pretty special winning the Heineken Cup in 2009 because it was the end result of a big trophy-less period in Leinster rugby.
"A lot of us started around 1998 and 1999, and to take 10 or 11 years just to get to a final was too long, so to get that win was really something special.
"Then to win the Heineken Cup back-to-back in 2011 and 2012 was incredibly tough, but the challenge was there. It is a very hungry locker room."
Welsh challengers the Scarlets are first up for Leinster's principal Pool Five rivals Clermont Auvergne on Saturday, and head coach Simon Easterby knows a huge task awaits his team at Stade Marcel Michelin.
"Clermont have such depth they have a couple of teams they can put out on the field that are capable of winning any game," Easterby said.
"We can't hide from the quality of their home record, but we will not just sit back and defend. We have to go there positively with a confident attitude."
Quins open their Pool Three programme against twice Heineken finalists Biarritz at the Twickenham Stoop on Saturday.
Connacht and Italian newcomers Zebre are also in the group, but Quins' meetings with Biarritz are likely to decide which team gains a guaranteed quarter-final place.
"We want to push through to that quarter-final stage," Quins skipper Chris Robshaw said.
"It's all about winning your first couple of games. As soon as you let those slip away then you are playing catch-up."
England fly-half Owen Farrell will be on the bench when Saracens travel to Edinburgh for a tricky Pool One encounter against last season's semi-finalists.
Charlie Hodgson retains the number 10 shirt, with Alex Goode, Chris Ashton, Schalk Brits and Kelly Brown among those players who return after missing last weekend's Premiership victory over London Welsh.
And former Bath fly-half Olly Barkley starts for his new club Racing Metro against Pool One visitors Munster at Stade de France, with the Irish heavyweights bolstered by lock Paul O'Connell's return following a five-month injury absence.