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Toulon clashes excite Exeter Chiefs prop Brett Sturgess

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 03, 2013

By Nigel Walrond

Brett Sturgess (centre) in Heineken Cup action for Exeter Chiefs against Cardiff Blues. Picture: Phil Mingo/Pinnacle

Brett Sturgess (centre) in Heineken Cup action for Exeter Chiefs against Cardiff Blues. Picture: Phil Mingo/Pinnacle

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Experienced Exeter Chiefs prop Brett Sturgess admitted it would be a "real privilege" to take to the pitch against European champions Toulon in the Heineken Cup at Sandy Park on Saturday.

The 32-year-old could find himself packing down at the weekend against Italy international Martin Castrogiovanni or giant Kiwi Carl Hayman in the front row.

The French club's whole squad is packed with a galaxy of world stars, including Jonny Wilkinson, Bryan Habana, Matt Giteau, Bakkies Botha, Frederic Michalak and Andrew Sheridan.

Toulon will be determined to defend the trophy they won in Dublin in May – and, no matter what the result on Saturday, the two sides will do it all again seven days later, when the Chiefs travel to Stade Felix Mayol in the south of France.

"We are on the big European stage again this weekend, and back-to-back games are an interesting one because you are planning for two weeks," said Sturgess.

"Meeting Toulon has been in the back of our minds recently, but we have been concentrating on playing Premiership and LV= Cup games.

"You have got to be excited as a club. The European champions coming to Sandy Park, with the stars they have got in their side – those are the games you want to play in, and we are really looking forward to it. It is a privilege to be involved in it."

It is incredible to think that, on the corresponding weekend only four years ago, Exeter were travelling to face Doncaster Knights in what is now the Championship.

"We have enjoyed a massive rise, but we are striving to keep moving forward and we are getting better all the time," said Sturgess. "We have let a few points slip away during the past two Premiership games and we have dropped back a bit in the league, but we are nearly there in terms of breaking into the top four and we are really proud of what we have achieved in the last four years."

Those two recent defeats have come against top-three sides Saracens and Bath, with Exeter picking up a losing bonus point on each occasion in games they could have won.

Last Saturday they put in an excellent display at Bath – a team the Chiefs are yet to beat since arriving in the top flight in 2010 – but they slipped to a 21-16 defeat, despite outscoring their hosts two tries to nil.

"For the first time since we have been in the Premiership, we went to the Rec and attacked the game from the start," explained Sturgess.

The Chiefs have played Bath ten times in league and cup matches since getting into the Premiership, and the best Exeter have managed is a 12-12 draw against them at Sandy Park last December, but Sturgess denied the failure to beat Bath was becoming a bit of a mental problem for the players.

"I don't think it is getting into our heads," he said. "Our record against Bath is probably talked about more outside the camp, though obviously we are aware we have only drawn against them – at Sandy Park – since we have been in the Premiership.

"Last year we gave Bath too much of a head start when we played them at their place, and we came good towards the end of the match.

"This year we went there and played with intent, and tried to run the ball and play our game, and we got a couple of tries, but we just missed out once again. We are nearly there and nearly getting the results against the top sides."

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