Kvesic flying high with the Chiefs
By Mark Stevens
Matt Kvesic joked this week he could well be suffering from altitude sickness such is the lofty position of the Exeter Chiefs in this season’s Gallagher Premiership.
However, the all-action forward insists the table-topping Chiefs will be taking nothing for granted when they come up against his former club Worcester Warriors at Sixways today (3pm).
Kvesic knows better than most the threat posed by the Midlanders, particularly on home soil, and insists he and his team-mates will have to be at their best if they are to emerge victorious.
Buoyed by last week’s hard-fought 20-14 win at Sale Sharks, Rob Baxter’s side will certainly travel in confident mood. However, Worcester’s defeat at Newcastle Falcons last weekend has pulled them back into the relegation dog-fight and Kvesic is aware they will be battling for every inch, as well as every point come kick-off this afternoon.
“I don’t think the league table does them any justice,” said the 26-year-old. “They like to attack, they are good in defence, and they are a better than the league shows. We know it’s going to be tough going up there at the weekend, so hopefully we can bang in another big performance.”
In what was a full-on encounter at the AJ Bell Stadium last week for the Chiefs, Baxter has opted to stick with a largely unchanged starting XV for this latest match-up. He has made just two changes with Jack Maunder starting at scrum-half and Tom O’Flaherty coming in on the wing.
That means England international Kvesic will once again trot out in an unchanged Exeter pack, whose job it will be to lay the foundations for what the Chiefs will be another triumph on the road.
Kvesic has been in outstanding form this season for the Devonians, featuring prominently throughout the campaign, as well as finding his way over the try-line on seven occasions. That is a season-best total already for the No.8, but he insists he’s not finished there and is determined to help drive the Chiefs onwards and upwards.
“We’re in a good position right now,” he said. “I’m probably suffering a bit of altitude sickness being this high. We played well at Sale last week and it was another step forward for us, but we know we have to keep pushing forward between now and the end of the season.”
Now into his second season at Sandy Park, Kvesic admits he feels more comfortable in his surroundings with the Chiefs and that his enjoyment for the game is helping to bring the best out of him on the pitch.
“The biggest thing for me is probably since the breakthrough period I had at Worcester, it’s probably been the first season I've really enjoyed,” he added. “Scoring tries is great and all that, and winning games is equally brilliant, but you've got to enjoy it and that's where I’ve maybe helped my game a bit more this year.
“I’ve been a little bit more relaxed, I can go out and have some fun and I think that enjoyment factor’s been really important.”
And Kvesic’s form has also been highlighted by Director of Rugby Baxter, who said: “He’s just rounded his game off. He got very breakdown-focused and mainly defensively breakdown-focused. He’s having his hands on the ball a lot more and having way more influence on the whole process of the game. He’s worked very hard to buy into what we want him to do and he’s been very successful at it.”
It is a change appreciated by Kvesic, who continued: “The coaches have been great talking to me, saying ‘relax, it's not the end of the world if you make mistakes, we'd rather you have a crack at something and enjoy it than feel caged a little bit’.
“I’ve managed to get my hands on the ball, I’ve played a little bit at eight as well, so I've enjoyed it a lot more and equally it's nice playing again.”