Chiefs starlets still have plenty to learn
A quartet of Exeter Chiefs starlets helped England secure the 2013 IRB Junior World Championship over the summer – and director of rugby Rob Baxter insists the door is open for his youngsters to break into the first team.
The Chiefs, who kick off the new Aviva Premiership season with a trip to Northampton Saints on Saturday, were represented by backs Sam Hill, Henry Slade, Jack Nowell and prop Luke Cowan-Dickie in the England Under-20 side.
All four played in the 23-15 triumph over Wales in the final and it was Baxter's boys who swept up all the points – Hill and Nowell scored a try apiece while Slade added three penalties and two conversions.
Baxter is relishing the prospect of his young guns developing for Exeter, but warned their international exploits hold no weight if they cannot deliver the goods domestically.
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"It's fantastic for us that those guys have been involved in the Under-20 World Championship and they've now got an opportunity to get into the Premiership side," Baxter said.
"It's also important for them not to get carried away. They are young guys and in Premiership terms they're very inexperienced.
"Jack Nowell is the only one out of that group who has had a Premiership start, Henry had a little bit of time off the bench, and so there's still a good block of learning they've got to get through.
"They've all had a good preseason with the senior group here and it's for them to fight their way in, play well in the A League, play well at their dual-registered clubs and show over a consistent period of time that they are guys who can perform in the Premiership."
The Chiefs added the Heineken Cup to their workload for the first time last season, holding their own by picking up two wins in Pool Five and suffering a 9-6 defeat to 2011-12 champions Leinster at Dublin's RDS Arena.
A sixth-placed Premiership finish see them return to Europe's premier rugby competition in 2013-14 and Baxter believes the challenge helps rather than hampers their domestic credentials.
Meanwhile, Exeter's Joel Conlon and Stuart Townsend have been named in England's Under 20 squad for 2013-14.
The Aviva Premiership Rugby Season kicks off on September 6, 7 and 8. The first matches will be crucial, to be there to support your team buy your ticket from premiershiprugby.com/tickets