Back under pressure as Leeds look up at new boys

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The Independent Online

Neil Back accepts his Leeds Carnegie team face a "sizeable challenge" today in their quest to start climbing away from Premiership relegation danger.

Leeds visit the Premiership newcomers Exeter, who are already 12 points above their hosts almost a third of the way through the league campaign. While Exeter have accounted for Gloucester, Newcastle and Saracens since arriving in English rugby's top flight, Leeds can reflect on collecting just two losing bonus points from seven games.

They are in grave danger of being cut adrift at the Premiership basement, but head coach Back remains upbeat. "Unlike most teams in the Premiership we have obviously played at Sandy Park, so it will not come as a shock to our guys," the former England flanker said. "We have to make sure that we arrive there with the right mentality and ready to take them on. It is a sizeable challenge, but we will be going there aiming to get our first win of the Premiership season.

"I think Exeter have done an outstanding job so far this season, but that has not surprised me. They obviously concentrate on getting the basics right, which is key to any successful team, and they have shown that they deserve their place in the Premiership."

The Exeter head coach, Rob Baxter, will face Leeds for the 14th time as a player and coach, and as with so many of those previous encounters, he knows there is a lot at stake. "Our paths have crossed regularly over the years, and we know it is going to be a tough game," said Baxter. "We know Leeds are targeting this game almost as a must-win for them. For us, it's about hitting the pitch in the right physical condition, but also getting the mentality of how we want to play right.

"We've got to go out there and play like it's a do-or-die, must-win game for us. If we get that mentality right, everything else will look after itself."

London Irish, unbeaten in the league since September, resume action away to Wasps tomorrow following two LV Cup defeats. But the Exiles' head coach, Toby Booth, said: "There has been a different buzz in training this week. We are refreshed and excited to be getting back to the Premiership."