Chiefs challenges excites Saints, says West
Exeter Chiefs may have made their Sandy Park home something of a fortress in recent seasons, but Saints forwards coach Dorian West insists his side enjoy playing there.
Northampton have won on three of their five league visits to the west country ground since the Chiefs won promotion in 2010.
But Saints have tasted defeat on their previous two trips to Exeter, with one of those losses coming in the 2014 LV= Cup final.
The Chiefs have lost just one league game at home this season, with Saracens the only team to have won down there.
But West said: “It’s somewhere we enjoy going. We’ve got a pretty good record down there.
“They’re a strong side, they’ve got a lot of good players, they’re playing well at the minute and they’ve gradually grown as a club over the past four or five years.
“It will be a big challenge, but it’s something that excites us and we’re looking forward to it.
“They’re a good side and we consider ourselves to be a good side as well.
“It’s one of those where we need to make sure we’re strong in certain aspects of our game.
“There’s usually a bit of wind blowing around the place and you’re against a physical pack and exciting backs so we need to be at our best.”
Exeter are in the driving seat for a home play-off semi-final, sitting second, seven points ahead of Wasps and nine in front of fourth-placed Saints.
And when asked whether he had expected this weekend’s opponents to be doing this well this season, West said: “They’re a big club now.
“They’re up there financially, they’ve got big support, good facilities and there’s no reason why they can’t be competing.
“Over the past few years, they’ve shown that they’re one of the top clubs.”
But Saints have belief of their own, having won five of their past six league matches.
And West said: “Five from six is what you need at this time of the year.
“There was a lot said before Christmas when things weren’t going quite so well, but last year we finished top and it counted for nothing.
“It’s not about what you do before Christmas, it’s about what we do from now to the end of the season.”
When Saints won the league in 2014, they went on a run of 13 games unbeaten in all competitions between December and March, including winning by a point at Exeter.
So does West see echoes of that campaign in this one?
“I hope so,” he said.
“We always strive to be the best we can be. We never plan to lose games.
“We have been playing pretty well and we’ve got some players coming into a bit of form which is pleasing.
“That’s what you need at this time of the year.”