Saints not fazed by facing wounded Exeter side
There is no doubt that Exeter will have more than enough incentive when they host Saints this Saturday.
Firstly, the Chiefs suffered a somewhat surprising Gallagher Premiership opening-day defeat at Leicester Tigers last weekend, losing 34-19 at Welford Road.
Secondly, Exeter will still harbour memories of what happened last season.
They lost the Premiership final to Harlequins at Twickenham and, more significantly when it comes to this weekend’s fixture, they lost to Saints at Sandy Park back in February.
Yes, they did just edge over the line in Northampton in June, bouncing back from an 18-0 half-time deficit to see off 14-man Saints, but that home defeat to Chris Boyd’s side hurt.
It was the first Exeter had suffered at home to the black, green and gold since February 2014.
And they will be in no mood to allow a repeat performance this weekend.
But Saints aren’t fazed by facing up to a revenge mission.
“We’re really excited to go down there,” said centre Fraser Dingwall.
“We had success down there in February and I’m sure they’ll remember that on top of the loss they had at Leicester last weekend, which I’m sure they’re pretty bitter aboout.
“It sets it up for a big challenge, one that we’re not going to step away from.
“We’re excited to put our game on the pitch and put in a good performance.
“Potentially previously when we’ve played Exeter we’ve been beaten quite heavily and there’s a mindset around the contact area.
“Their game is built around their physicality, backs and forwards, so if we can match that and start to put our game on to the pitch and start threatening them we could put them in some trouble.”
Both Saints and Exeter are having to do without several key players at the start of the season due to mandatory British & Irish Lions rest periods, injuries and other issues.
There will still be plenty of quality on the pitch this weekend but while Exeter are being tipped by many to win the title, Saints are not even expected to finish in the top four by most pundits.
“I don’t think what people say really matters,” Dingwall said.
“We know what we’re capable of and we probably wouldn’t listen to too much outside noise anyway.
“I wouldn’t know what it’s like to go into a season with people saying you’re going to win the Prem, and Quins winning it last season has shown that anyone can win it.
“If you get a run of momentum and start to play well, it is anyone’s Prem.
“If you get into that play-off spot, anything can happen, but you have to win games through the season to get there and it can be a loss that may not seem significant that ends up being the difference.”
Dingwall was a key man as Saints secured a bonus-point 34-20 win against Gloucester last weekend.
And he said: “Personally, it was just nice to be back in the midfield and just good to play.
“I feel like I’m trying to expand my game the whole time.
“When I first came in, defending was my strong point and I just tried to contribute in attack where I could.
“But now I feel like I’m making a bigger contribution in attack and starting to be more threatening in that area.
“That’s largely down to work I’ve done with Sam Vesty, and training at both 12 and 13 has helped my game.
“This is now my fifth season at the club and my fourth season of playing so I am one of the more experienced guys in a young side.
“We can’t really hide behind age any more.
“In previous seasons myself and a couple of others have always been able to hide behind being young and up and coming, but now we’re experienced enough that we have to take the lead.
“We have to stick our chest out more and accept that we are experienced players, and what comes with that is that you are expected to deliver week in and week out.
“We are hanging our hat on this year.”