Dream debut for Capstick
By Mike Smith
Saturday’s trip to Leicester was a momentous one.
Table-toppers Exeter Chiefs ran out for their 200th Gallagher Premiership game, Henry Slade’s 100th top-flight appearance for the club, and from a future perspective, a Premiership debut for highly-rated youngster Richard Capstick.
Exeter’s 52-20 success at Welford Road not only heaped further misery on their hosts, who are now just five points adrift of the bottom of the table, but it also ensured the Chiefs will have home advantage in next month’s Premiership play-offs.
A dominant display from the Devonians yielded seven tries on the day, but it was other areas of their performance which Director of Rugby Rob Baxter was quick to highlight post-game, including an impressive outing off the bench for 19-year-old Capstick.
“I can’t believe it,” said Capstick at the final whistle, “To come out of college rugby and to be involved in a team doing so well, and so far ahead in the Premiership, it means so much to me.”
A product of the club’s academy set-up, England Under-20s international Capstick certainly has a big future in front of him. Back in November he took his opportunity during the Premiership Rugby Cup fixture against Harlequins, scoring his first-ever try for the club.
And that has provided him with the launch pad to prove his worth at Sandy Park, lining up alongside some of English rugby’s biggest names.
“I’ve always dreamed of this, it’s a great game to be part of, especially with the win,” he added. “The atmosphere playing at one of the biggest grounds in Europe, you can’t get much better to play your first game.”
Thrown into the fray with just 15 minutes remaining, Capstick didn’t not disappoint, producing an impressive cameo, which included a charging run down the left touchline, only to be cut short by a last-gasp tackle from Leicester and England playmaker George Ford.
He continued: “It was so fast!, my lungs were burning after 15 minutes! I was very nervous beforehand, but the boys were very supportive, they all want the best for you, so that makes it a lot easier.
“All I want to do is play well for Exeter. I’ve grown up in the South West, I love living down here, the support is amazing, and all the boys are all here for you.”
Capstick is in a long line of players that have worked their way up through the Chiefs academy, with Jack Nowell, Henry Slade, Luke Cowan-Dickie, and Sam Hill among those to have gone from raw rookie to a household name in the Exeter first team ranks.
"It's just one step at a time,” he commented. "Sharing a pitch with them makes it so much easier, it fills you with confidence knowing that they're around you.They’ve been in a similar position to what I am now, so it’s good to have them around offering advice and showing what you can achieve.”
With the home semi-final now secured, Exeter Chiefs continue their Premiership campaign this Sunday where they welcome Wasps to a packed out Sandy Park. Baxter’s side will come into the game brimming with confidence and determined to maintain their winning formula, particularly as they look to build a real head of steam before their last four date.