Chiefs must 'hit ground running' - Yeandle
By Mark Stevens
Jack Yeandle says it’s imperative he and his Exeter Chiefs team-mates ‘hit the ground running’ when they do finally resume the 2019/20 season.
With proceedings in the Gallagher Premiership and Heineken Champions Cup brought to an abrupt halt following the coronavirus outbreak, Rob Baxter’s side are inching ever closer to a return to competitive action.
The Chiefs are currently working their way through stringent Stage One training protocols at Sandy Park. However, hopes are high the squad will be able to move into Stage Two training shortly as the club look to get themselves ready for Premiership Rugby’s target return date of August 15.
Having spent much of the lockdown period having to train at home, club captain Yeandle says being back amongst his team-mates is a positive step in the right direction.
“It’s nice to be back, albeit we are in small groups,” said Yeandle. “It’s good to see the boys, not all of them because of the schedules we have, but we’re heading in the right direction to get back playing.
“It’s certainly been a strange few months for all of us, but I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been able to train and have a bit of routine in my life that way. At the same time, it’s been good spending time with the family, but now it’s nice that we’re getting back to some kind of normality.”
With nine rounds of the regular Premiership season still to go, as well as at least one fixture in Europe, once the action does resume it’s going to come thick and fast for the Chiefs, who currently lead the top flight by five points from next-best Sale Sharks.
Since defeating Bath comprehensively in their last fixture in mid-March, the make-up of the Chiefs squad has changed with the likes of Matt Kvesic, Greg Holmes, Sam Hill and Nic White all moving on – whilst into the mix have come Scottish internationals Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Jonny Gray, as well as highly-rated youngsters Josh Hodge, Aaron Hinkley and Corey Baldwin.
“It’s disappointing that the lads that were here didn’t get the chance to finish the season off or have their chance of saying goodbye,” admitted Yeandle. “And in the case of Hilly and Kev, it’s going to be weird seeing them line up for opposition later in the season, but that’s the way things have worked out.
“That said, we’ve got new guys come into the squad and although our paths haven’t crossed a great deal yet, I think we’ve said ‘hello’ from afar, it’ll be good to have them come in and add something to the squad.
“Right now, the training is tough, but we’re getting our teeth stuck into it and in a strange way enjoying the hard work. We know as a group that we have to hit the ground running when we do start playing again. Unlike a normal pre-season, where you perhaps get a bit of time to lead into things, we’re going straight back in.
“I know the boys have worked hard during lockdown and it’s the same now that we’re back here at the club. Although we are in small groups, we’ve created our own little competitions amongst us, and that just helps to bring a competitive edge and drive standards up. Even in situations like that, as a player you want to win, so it’s helping bring the best out of us all.”
Indeed, Yeandle knows that the hard graft conducted during their current period could be the difference come the end of the season when the rewards are so great.
“Winning games of rugby doesn’t just happen, it takes an awful lot of hard work,” continued Yeandle. “As players we all know what it takes to do well, so you have to make sure you commit to everything fully. That starts with our training and then it leads into when we play as well.”
However, when the Chiefs do resume their fixtures, the wider landscape will be different with the likelihood of supporters being absent for the opening games.
“Having no fans in the stadium will definitely be odd,” said Yeandle. “I’m not quite sure how it will be because it’s never happened before. We’ve played the odd internal game, but this will certainly be different because you won’t have that normal match-day buzz. As players, it will be up to us to try and create that buzz amongst ourselves.”