Sam can't wait to get up and running
By Mark Stevens
Exeter Chiefs newcomer Sam Hidalgo-Clyne knows he has to hit the ground running when the Gallagher Premiership kicks back into life next week.
The table-topping Chiefs will resume their 2019/20 season with the visit of Leicester Tigers to Sandy Park on Saturday, August 15 - and the Scottish international will be hoping to be part of Rob Baxter’s squad as they prepare to tackle their first fixture since mid-March.
Hidalgo-Clyne is one of a number of new faces that have been brought into the Chiefs squad during lockdown and has spent the past few months getting himself up to speed with life at the Devon club, whose last fixture saw them defeat Westcountry rivals Bath 57-20.
“I’ve really enjoyed myself so far,” said the 27-year-old. “Obviously, it was a bit weird for the first few months, training alone and not really knowing too much. I was in the What’s App group, but not meeting any of the boys, but then we came back to small-sided training and now we’re back in full training and I’m getting to know every one.
“The vibe is good around the place. All the guys are excited for the season to get going again. It’s going to be odd with no cows, but we have to take everything in our stride and see how it goes.”
With the Tigers first up, quickly followed by tough away days against Sale Sharks and Bristol Bears, it promises to be a baptism of fire for the scrum-half following his move across the English Channel from French side Lyon.
“None of us are going to have much time to settle in as such,” added Hidalgo-Clyne. “There’s lots of game to be played in a short space of time, so we’ve got to hit the ground running and come out firing from the outset.
“Training has been tough, but that’s what you need. I forgot how hard it is to become rugby fit again, but we’ve been working hard as a group and we’ve got a couple of in-house games to get us all up and running ahead of that first game.”
Having tackled the Chiefs as an opponent in the past, Hidalgo-Clyne admits he needed no reminding of the work ethic that exists amongst his new team-mates.
“Playing against them [the Chiefs] you know you have to do a lot of running,” he continued. “They play a brand of rugby that’s hard to defend against and they keep the ball so well for long periods. How they play is not only smart, but they are willing to go that bit extra to just out-work sides.
“Coming here now, I’ve seen the standards they set themselves and it’s little wonder they are doing so well, both in the Premiership, but in Europe as well. Rob [Baxter] and Ali [Hepher] are always putting pressure on, but the boys themselves are all pushing one another. Everyone knows that can’t afford to let their guard slip, they have to put in a performance.
“You only have to look at the two sides we’ve put out for the in-house games, plus the guys waiting on the bench as well, it shows the strength and the depth to the squad we have here. We’ll need that if we want to be successful over these next few months.”