Leicester Tigers welcome league leaders and defending Aviva Premiership champions Exeter Chiefs on Saturday with head coach Matt O’Connor preparing his team to take “another step up” in this Round 5 clash.
After opening the season with defeats against Bath and Northampton, Tigers bounced back to win against Gloucester at Welford Road and then away to Harlequins last week, while Chiefs have won three from four – against London Irish, Worcester and Wasps – in defence of the title won for a first time in 2016/17.
“In the last couple of years the club has not had a great record against the top two or three sides in the table and we need to make sure we are better again this week and accurate in everything we do,” said O’Connor.
“Chiefs are a very efficient team, they work hard for each other and make very few mistakes. It will be physical and they will back themselves in an arm-wrestle. It is important to aim up physically.
“We’ve done some really positive things and played some good rugby in the last two games but we need to step up again this weekend.”
The clubs have met on 55 previous occasions, with Tigers winning 36 to Exeter’s 15, though Chiefs have won three of the last four encounters, including a home and away double last season.
Tigers, did, though take the honours in the Anglo-Welsh Cup Final last season, hosted at The Twickenham Stoop.
Team news was announced by both coaches on Friday, with George McGuigan and Brendon O’Connor making timely returns to the Tigers squad and Luke Hamilton coming back into the forward pack.
Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter includes former Tigers favourite Julian Salvi in the Chiefs back row following injury to Sam Simmons last weekend. Olly Woodburn, who scored twice in the win over Wasps last weekend, is the top try-scorer in the league with five in four rounds so far, one more than Leicester’s Jonny May.
Chiefs full-back Lachie Turner insists the visitors can expect a “massive challenge” at Welford Road.
“Leicester are very tough to play at home and their supporters really get behind them,” said the Australian international. “Last year, though, our win up there was probably the one that really stood out for us. It was a big win, away from home, and it sent us on our way.
“We know what is ahead of us but as a team we’re really looking forward to the challenge.”
Referee for Saturday is Thomas Foley in his 41st Premiership match in charge.
Kick-off is at 3.00pm and tickets are available now. Book in person at the Tigers ticket office or phone 0116 319 8888 (option 2)(open from 9.00am on matchday) or click here to book online at any time.
For a full matchday guide to what’s in store at Welford Road, click here.
Welford Road hosts the second half of a weekend double-header with a Premiership ‘A’ League fixture against Newcastle Falcons at 3.00pm on Sunday.