Chiefs encouraged by Hill's stellar start
A Premiership debut for Sam Hill was one of the plus points to come out of Exeter Chiefs' disappointing 38-11 defeat at Northampton Saints last Saturday.
The talented 20-year-old centre was introduced as a 56th-minute replacement, and lit up the closing stages of the game with some sparkling play.
It was a performance that impressed head coach Rob Baxter, and was the latest episode in an excellent few months for the Exeter-born back.
In June, he was part of the England Under-20 team that lifted the Junior World Championship crown for the first time with a 23-15 victory over Wales in the final in France.
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Speaking about his Premiership bow, a delighted Hill said: "I was really excited about the week. I was on the bench and involved in the squad, but to get on was a brilliant feeling."
From a team point of view, it was not such a good day as the Chiefs shipped five tries to a side tipped by many to reach the Premiership final for a second season running, after being beaten by Leicester Tigers in last May's Twickenham showdown.
"Going away to Northampton is always a really tough game, and we learnt some lessons which we can take into training this week and hopefully improve on Saturday against Wasps," commented Hill.
Youngsters coming through the Chiefs Academy know they will be given a first-team chance if they are good enough, as has been shown by the way the likes of Jack Nowell, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Henry Slade have been handed opportunities in recent times.
Hill believes he has also benefited from being dual- registered with Championship side Cornish Pirates, where he has spent the past two years.
He is also on their books again this season, but the Cornish club are not expecting to see too much of him, if at all, this campaign, such has been his progress.
"You have got to train as hard as you can, and you may get opportunities to go for it in the first team, and when you do you have got to try and take them," said Hill. "You need to play week in and week out to keep improving, and going to the Pirates for a couple of years has really brought my game on.
"You gain confidence from playing in the Championship, which is a good level."
Hill is now waiting to hear Baxter's selection for Saturday's opening home league game against London Wasps, to see if he is involved again.
"Hopefully I will be, but we will just have to wait and see," said Hill.
Another impressive young Chief introduced in the second half at Franklin's Gardens was fly-half Slade, and he also did well as Exeter tried to find a route back into the game, after trailing 31-6 at the break.
Exeter loose-head prop Brett Sturgess, who was playing against his old club last Saturday, is delighted to see the youngsters coming through at Sandy Park.
"The Chiefs are building a really good Academy," he said. "We had several guys who did really well with the England Under-20s during the summer, and they have brought their form into pre-season, and now they are not just being given their chance in LV= Cup games, but Premiership games as well, which is really good for the club."
Sturgess is hoping the Chiefs can bounce back from the disappointment at Northampton with a fine performance in front of their own fans against Wasps.
"We knew we had let ourselves down in the first half, and we came out for the second period with a different attitude, and we will build on that second 40 minutes and take that into the Wasps game," he said. "Last year we were a definite force at home, and that's what we need to be again this year."