Steenson has plenty to keep him busy
By Mark Stevens
These are interesting times for all of us, but for Exeter Chiefs fly-half Gareth Steenson, he has plenty to ponder as the world looks to get to grips with the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) threat.
Not only does he not know when he and his team-mates are likely to resume their 2019/20 season, a provisional return has been muted for next month, but his life outside of rugby is equally very much ‘up in the air’.
“It’s a strange time for all of us,” said Steenson. “Nobody has ever been in this position before, so it’s not like we know when it will all get better and we can get back to things.
“For us as players, there’s not a lot we can do right now. Obviously, we had the week off last week because of the Premiership Rugby Cup Final – and we were all planning to come back on Monday to prepare for the Leicester game, which should have gone ahead this weekend.
“As things developed, we got an email from Rob [Baxter] saying not to come in and that’s going to be the case now for a few weeks. The club are giving us regular updates and my wife [Karen] is a GP, so she is right on the frontline of things and keeps me updated with everything.
“I guess the big thing, though, is that none of us know when things are going to change. It’s very much up in the air and things are changing all the times. Of course, it’s a worry for all of us. I’ve got family back home in Northern Ireland who I’m talking to all the time, so we just have to wait to see what happens.”
In the meantime, Steenson is filling his time with individual training at home, the daily school run for sons Oscar and William, plus meetings with his business partners about the day-to-day running of the famous ‘Stand Off’ pub in the heart of Exeter’s city centre.
“I’m trying to keep myself as busy as I can,” said the 35-year-old. “At the moment the boys are still going to school. I drop them off and pick them up each day; I’m chatting with the others about the pub; and this morning I’ve just finished one of those ‘Insanity’ training sessions!
“With the Stand Off we’re open, but we don’t know for how long that will be. It’s a worry, of course it is, but you can pretty much say that it’s like that for businesses across the board. Nobody knows how long this is going to go on for. All we can do is make sure we are doing everything we can for our staff and for our customers.”
When Steenson does get a spare moment, however, he’s been glued to his Playstation Two, digging out his old games and re-introducing himself to games such as ‘Gun’.
“I’ve been playing a wee bit on the Playstation recently,” he added. “I’m not on it all the times like some of the boys, but it’s been fun having a go at some of the old games again!”
So what for the future and a potential return to doing the day job?
“As I said, we’re off until something like April 20,” he continued. “That’s the initial day they’ve said we may go back in. That can change for sure, but we’ll work with that for now. What will happen with the season, who knows…..
“I’m not normally one who looks too far ahead, I tend to work on a week-to-week basis, focusing on the next opponent and making sure I’m ready for that test. Sometimes you may look at say a three or four-week block, but nothing too long term.
‘Right now there’s so many ‘ifs and buts’ about things. All we can do is just wait to see how things develop and then, when things are able to get back to some kind of normality, we’ll look to go again.”
Currently, the Chiefs sit top of the Gallagher Premiership, five points clear of next-best Sale Sharks, and also have a European Champions Cup quarter-final against Northampton Saints to tackle at some stage.
“There is still a lot of the season still to go,” continued Steenson. “I’m not sure what they will do about playing the games and when they will play them – for now I think everyone’s focus has to be on making sure they look after themselves, their families and friends, and just stay as safe as possible.”
* On Friday, Steenson and former club-mate Carl Rimmer will be recording the latest edition of the Stand Off podcast with BBC Radio Devon's Charlie Price, you'll be able to watch this live on the official Exeter Chiefs Facebook page from 10:30am.