Gareth Steenson is confident Exeter can continue to enjoy a dream debut in the Aviva Premiership.
By Chris Burton
Last Updated: 08/03/11 3:43pm
Gareth Steenson is confident Exeter can continue to enjoy a dream debut season in the Aviva Premiership.
The Chiefs were something on an unknown quantity when they made the step up into the top tier, with their squad lacking the international depth of some of their rivals.
No one is underestimating Rob Baxter's men anymore, though, as Exeter have claimed more than their fair share of notable scalps.
Northampton were added to that list over the weekend, while Harlequins, Saracens, Wasps and Sale have all felt the full force of the Chiefs this term.
Fly-half Steenson has played a leading role in the club's success, notching close to 150 points, and he believes Exeter will go from strength to strength as they become further acquainted with life among England's elite.
He told skysports.com at a tomahawk throwing activity which has formed part of Exeter's team-bonding exercises: "I think we had a confidence heading into the season. It was a new adventure for us and we didn't really have much expectation. We just wanted to go in and perform. We knew that if we did that then the results would look after themselves.
"I think we have learnt in every game we have played and we have improved in every game. Hopefully now that will continue as the season progresses."
Steenson added: "The majority of the boys that are here have been here for a few seasons and they all worked hard in the Championship environment. We wanted to test ourselves against the best players in the country, it's one of the best leagues in the world and we are delighted to be here.
"Every game is an exciting new challenge and we just want to keep testing ourselves. You learn a lot by testing yourself and we are all learning together. I think we have progressed well this season and hopefully we can finish it off in the remaining games of the season."
Exeter's impressive showing this season has been built on their home form, with Sandy Park having become something of a fortress.
"I think most teams in the Premiership would say that you have to go and win your home games," said Steenson.
"It's something we take great pride in every time we take to the field. The support we have is fantastic. When you get a full house at Sandy Park it's a great place to play and it helps to bring the best out of the side. It's an enjoyable environment to play in and we try to take as much from our home games as possible.
"We were a bit of a surprise package at the start of the year. Not many people knew a lot about us, but we knew a lot about ourselves and had done plenty of analysis on the opposition. We have tried to develop our game, we have tried to do that throughout, going right back to the first game of the season when we played Gloucester.
"I think we have tried to play a different type of game since then and every week we try to set a new bar."
While the Chiefs squad are now household names in their own right, Steenson admits that tweaks may be required over the summer if the club are to kick on again in 2011/12.
He said: "With this being our first season in the Premiership, it was all about getting experience because a lot of us haven't played at this level before. Now we have experienced that, we can turn around and say 'we've done that, now we need to progress and make ourselves a top Premiership side'.
"To do that we have to keep making sure that every week we are a little bit better than we were the game before. We are willing to learn and work hard and we are all pushing in the right direction. We are only going to be better for that."
Steenson believes that he is a better player now than he was back in September, with the 26-year-old Northern Irishman revelling in the opportunity to pit his wits against the best in the business on a weekly basis.
He said: "I am delighted to be playing against the top players. To be playing against some of the international players we are coming up against on a week-to-week basis is a great challenge. It's something I have been looking forward to ever since I started playing rugby.
"It is all about playing in the top league and it's a great challenge for me and for the rest of the lads. I am learning every week and it's been really enjoyable. Like last week, we came up against a World Cup winner in Butch James and he's a great player and makes you want to test yourself. It's been like that every week."
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