Exeter extend travel horizons to 'go for it' in Challenge Cup

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The Independent Online

Exeter coach Rob Baxter has his sights set on an Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final place, admitting his players are "going to go for it".

The Chiefs host struggling French side Bourgoin tonight, when victory would set up a probable Pool Three decider in France against Montpellier next weekend.

European success would continue Exeter's outstanding debut season as a Premiership club, having already beaten league opponents Gloucester, Saracens, Newcastle, Sale Sharks and Leeds Carnegie this term.

"A quarter-final could potentially be a very big game," Baxter said yesterday. "The most important thing is to be able to go to Montpellier with something to play for. To travel abroad with a real reason to play will be fantastic.

"We are in a good frame of mind as a team and we're relatively injury-free, so we are going to go for it. It is definitely more intense now, and the players understand that, but ambitious players want to play in big games."

Bourgoin, who this week appointed former the France international Laurent Seigne as their new coach after poor results on the domestic and European stages, currently prop up the group.

But Baxter added: "There is no distinct pattern to the way they play. They are very much a 'heads-up' rugby side, and that is their danger. We could get hit with something we are not prepared for.

"That said, we feel we've trained well and we are mentally shifting in the right direction with regards to reacting to different scenarios. A team that is going to do the unexpected is what we need to hone ourselves to that mental state, where you don't get caught for length-of-the-field tries like we did at Gloucester last weekend."

Harlequins travel to meet Italians Cavalieri today, when a bonus point win would make it mission accomplished and herald a Pool One decider against Bayonne at the Twickenham Stoop next Saturday.

Quins are currently one point behind the French club, who host Connacht tomorrow, and have named a strong line-up to visit the 6,500-capacity Stadio Lungobisenzio.

Wing Ugo Monye will make his 150th Quins appearance in a side that also includes his fellow England international Danny Care. The flanker Will Skinner is captain.

Gloucester's hopes of progressing from Pool Five suffered a huge blow after La Rochelle beat Agen on Thursday night, leaving the West Country club knowing that bonus point victories over Rovigo and Agen in their last two games will probably not be enough.

They should complete the first part of that task in Rovigo tomorrow, but La Rochelle only need to beat the Italians at home next week and a quarter-final place will be secured. Peter Buxton will captain Gloucester in a much-changed team from the one that beat Exeter six days ago, with the England centre Mike Tindall among those rested. "We have got a job to do and we've got to get five points in Rovigo," said the Gloucester head coach, Bryan Redpath. "It is about physicality and it is about the basics and execution – it's as simple as that."

Leeds Carnegie are also hanging on in Pool Four, but they need to beat the French heavyweights Stade Français in Paris tomorrow or face elimination. The backs Michael Stephenson and Lachlan MacKay are put of action through injury, but a powerful Leeds pack includes England forwards Steve Thompson and Hendre Fourie under the captaincy of lock Marco Wentzel.