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Exeter Chiefs v Cardiff Blues Heineken Cup Preview - Chiefs challenged to prove themselves

Gareth Steenson of Exeter kicks a penalty. (Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Exeter Chiefs coach Rob Baxter has challenged his players to impress during the Heineken Cup if they ever want to play for their respective countries.

Bet on the Heineken Cup at Sky Bet and watch all the live action on Sky Sports

The Heineken Cup returns this weekend and the Chiefs are about to embark on their second ever Heineken Cup campaign and will be looking for improvements this time around.

They did not do that bad last season as they finished in third place in Pool 5 and managed to claim two wins over the Llanelli Scarlets.

This year they are in Pool 2 and are up against Sunday’s opponents Cardiff Blues, Glasgow Warriors and the 2013 champions Toulon.


Dave Ewers of Exeter races past Elliott Stooke (l) of Gloucester. (Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Coach Baxter believes that his players will have learned a lot in the last campaign but he wants them to go and prove they are quality players in Europe if they are to ever gain international honours.

He said: “What we learned from last season were things like the intensity of the game; the pressure of playing in this environment and the importance of taking bonus points, keeping your error count low and staying disciplined.

"Players who go on to play at international level tend to be the players who perform well at club level, get better at Heineken Cup level and get better again at international level.

"They are the guys that thrive at the top end and that's what I want from us."

The Chiefs, who ply their trade in the Aviva Premiership, are odds-on favourites to kick off their campaign with a win and can be backed at 1/3 with Sky Bet, while Cardiff are 9/4.

You can back the draw at 22/1 with Paddy Power.

The line handicap betting market sees the Blues handed an eight point start at 10/11 with Boylesports, while Exeter -7 is an even money chance with Stan James.

In team news for this game, Exeter will hand Fetu’u Vainikolo his first start for the club and will start on the wing with Tom James missing out with an ankle injury.

Cardiff have made just one change to their side as Dafydd Hewitt comes in at centre with Owen Williams missing out with a hamstring problem.


Blues player Rhys Patchell is wrapped up by Mike Mayhew (l) and Bryn Evans of London Irish. (Stu Forster/Getty Images)

The Blues will have Sam Warburton, Gethin Jenkins, Leigh Halfpenny and Alex Cuthbert to choose from and coach Phil Davies is expected a tough battle and insists his players are up for the fight.

Davies said: “We're trying to get intensity into our game. I know what the English league is like and how pragmatic it can be.

"Exeter have been that, but they have also tried to open their game up and play more expansively and they are an exciting side.

"It's eight versus eight up front and a real battle. But there are battles all over the pitch in terms of physicality, speed and power. The word intensity in the player's minds has got to be the forefront this weekend.

"This competition is all about momentum. All the Welsh regions have got match winners and players with proven ability. If we get momentum who know what can happen this season?"

For the opening weekend of fixtures leading bookmaker Paddy Power has opened a special market for all fans.

If the first try is scored by a forward in any of the 12 matches this weekend, then Paddy Power will refund all losing try scorer bets on the match.

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Exeter Chiefs v Cardiff Blues Heineken Cup Preview - Chiefs challenged to prove themselves

Exeter Chiefs coach Rob Baxter has challenged his players to impress during the Heineken Cup if they ever want to play for their respective countries

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