One of the hot topics in professional rugby at the moment is player welfare. Hence why Gareth Steenson noted the importance of a break for the players. Most Premiership players would have been given some time off to refresh both mentally and physically.
David Challis was able to go into the Exeter Chiefs camp as they prepare to travel to Gloucester on Friday. We have all the insight from fly-half Gareth Steenson, back-rower Dave Ewers and Director of Rugby Rob Baxter on all things Chiefs.
Importance of a Mid-Season Break
Premiership players were thankful for some time off over the last fortnight. Especially having played non-stop for the past 18 weeks without a break. Baxter himself was able to get away from the rigours of the day job and enjoy some time with the family Gin Tasting in Salcombe.
For the players slightly more exotic destinations were sought, some players headed for Dubai or New York on their travels. stalwart fly-half Gareth Steenson noted that a “lot of the challenges are about mental freshness” and hence focussed on his time off on that side of things.
Dave Ewers has been plagued with injuries over past seasons. He pointed out that he is thankful to be “able to string some performances together”. He is, therefore, “looking forward to getting back out there”.
Baxter provided a squad update regarding the injury and availability status of a number of players. Overall the squad appears to be thickening out but a few players still remain on the side-line.
There is good news with regards to Nic White who is back in full training and available for selection. Harry Williams and Stuart Hogg have also been released by England and Scotland respectively so will play a part on Friday.
However, England starts Jack Nowell and Henry Slade both remain injured but there is potential for returns before the end of the Six Nations. Finally, Joe Simmonds is fit but still has one week left on his ban meaning he will play no part on Friday night.
Travelling to Kingsholm
Gloucester away is one of the toughest games in English rugby but for Gareth Steenson, this is an event to savour.
“Friday night Kingsholm, it’s one of the best places to play rugby”
Baxter echoed those sentiments when he said that “it’s always a fantastic atmosphere”. As well as “one of those top places to go and play rugby”.
Exeter face still opposition that has had two weeks off competitive action. The West Country side will hope to return to Premiership action with a win to bolster their top-four ambitions.
Targets for the Rest of the Season
Now that Saracens will no longer play a part at the top of the table most would expect Exeter to be he clear favourites for the title. When asked about who he sees as Chiefs’ main competition Baxter saw things slightly differently though;
“I could probably name six teams not two or three, that’s we’ve got to make sure we keep focussing on ourselves and keep collecting points, because if what’s happened to Saracens makes us think we can draw breath or can push later on. That’s the biggest mistake we can make.”
Gareth Steenson noted that this four-week block could be central to his side’s ambitions for the season and if they do no perform each week then they may well be left behind. Exeter’s last outing was a disappointing loss to Sale at home. Hence, Dave Ewers stressed the “need to get back up and running with a win”.
As we enter the second half of the domestic season things could not be much more open which provides excitement. For Exeter Chiefs top four is naturally the aim. However, they much show their consistency for the last few seasons for this to be a reality.
“Main Photo Credits”
Embed from Getty Images