Exeter Chiefs begin their Heineken Champions Cup away at Castres Olympique on Saturday, in what is set to be a testing clash as they look to replicate their 2020 success.
Exeter lifted the trophy that year after a stunning campaign, but the previous two seasons have ended in defeat, first in the quarter-finals and then in the Round of 16.
Castres, who beat Exeter at home in the 2018/19 Heineken Champions Cup pool stage, were unfortunate not to progress to the knockout stage last season, with a last-gasp defeat to Harlequins seeing them drop into the EPCR Challenge Cup, which proved a fruitless endeavour.
Exeter are seventh in the Gallagher Premiership nine games into this season, picking up four wins, while Castres are 11th in the TOP 14, winning six from 12.
The Pool A contest at Stade Pierre Fabre kicks off at 20:00 (UK & Irish time) and is available to watch on beIN SPORTS, BT Sport, SuperSport and FloRugby.
Mathieu Babillot (Castres Olympique flanker): “I have great respect for this competition, a lot of admiration for all the great teams that have won this trophy. All the greatest players have played in this competition. It’s a privilege to play in the [Heineken]Champions Cup.”
Ben Moon (Exeter Chiefs prop): “The past couple of years I think we’ve perhaps put too much pressure on ourselves for the result, rather than the performance. If we get the performance right, the result will look after itself. It’s a challenge that everyone looks for at Chiefs, and when we go over to France they’re always good encounters.”
- Castres Olympique fly-half Ben Botica, missed more kicks at goal in a single Heineken Champions Cup match last season than any other player, failing to strike four through the uprights.
- Castres were the only club in the Heineken Champions Cup last season not to be penalised with a card of any colour. However, they conceded a competition-high average of 13.75 penalties per match.
- The last time that Castres Olympique met the Exeter Chiefs, they lost away from home. However, they defeated their opposition in their first meeting, winning 29-25 in October 2018.
- Stuart Hogg is the only player who will play in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup to have scored a drop goal in the tournament last term.
- The Chiefs made the highest percentage of low tackles in the tournament in the 2021/22 season, aiming below the waist with 52% of their defensive actions.
- In last season’s competition, Exeter had more try-scoring possessions which started with scrums than any other team (six).