Exeter’s England and British and Irish Lions winger Jack Nowell says the pain of losing last year’s Premiership final has spurred them on this season.
The Chiefs topped the league for a second successive season and will host Northampton in Saturday’s semi-final.
Having been champions in 2017, Exeter lost to Saracens in last year’s final.
“The boys were extremely upset from it and coming through this year, it’s been important for us to remember that,” Nowell, 26, told BBC Sport.
“We’ve worked so hard to get ourselves in this position, another home semi-final, we’ve done that and worked so hard to get there it’d be a shame to let ourselves down in one game.
“We felt that we let our side down and the fans down as well and it’s one pain that none of us ever want to have again.”
‘Last year the boys genuinely hurt’
Nowell has been key to Exeter’s recent rise – he has started all three of the club’s Premiership finals – scoring a try in Exeter’s first loss to Saracens at Twickenham in the 2016 showpiece and also dotting down as the Chiefs beat Wasps 12 months later for their first title.
“In the first year we lost it, there wasn’t the same level of pain because it was a remarkable year for us,” explained Exeter’s director of rugby Rob Baxter.
“It was the first time in the top four, a home semi-final, getting to a final and the first time in a final. The season ended with it having been a fantastic season for us, our best ever, more than we could have dreamed of.
“The following year winning it was a great experience, but last year the boys genuinely hurt.
“I looked around the changing room and it was silent. It was upset and it was a little angry and I would like to think those same players that probably felt they let themselves down a little bit last year will be some of the guys who start driving us over the next two weeks.”
World Cup dreams
With a World Cup on the horizon, Saturday’s semi-final and a potential final at Twickenham seven days later, are also a chance for players such as Nowell to stake their claim for a place on the plane to Japan.
Eddie Jones names his initial squad in June before whittling it down to the final party a month later.
Nowell, who was a fringe member of the 2015 World Cup squad, faces stiff competition for a place on the wing as he looks to add to his 35 England caps.
Chris Ashton, Joe Cokanasiga, Elliot Daly and Jonny May featured alongside him in the Six Nations this year while Bath’s Anthony Watson is returning to fitness and Gloucester youngster Ollie Thorley has earned rave reviews.
“You’re getting a chance to play more for your club in front of Eddie, other teams aren’t getting a chance to do that,” explained Nowell.
“Eddie always says that Heineken Cup games are closest to what a Six Nations or international would be, and I think semi-finals and finals are going to be very close to that as well.
“They’re extremely difficult, so any chance to play for your club in front of the coaches is obviously a big one.
“If we’re doing well and we play well in the semi-final and hopefully get through and win the final, that’s only going to help you put your hand up.”