History shows one position is always hit hard by injuries
CRAIG Mitchell's latest injury blow has kept up Exeter Chiefs' record of being hit particularly badly in one area of the team in recent seasons.
The Welsh international prop faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines after tearing a pectoral muscle.
He appeared off the bench in last week's A league game at home against Wasps but had to be taken off after getting caught at an awkward angle when he made a tackle.
In the third game of last season he damaged a bicep and missed 15 matches and will have to go through the rehab process once more.
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It has weakened Rob Baxter's options in the front row, with three hookers already ruled hors de combat with knocks.
Summer signing Greg Bateman has not played for the club yet because of a calf problem he picked up in pre-season, while brother Luke and Tom Cowan-Dickie are out with knee injuries.
You could be forgiven for thinking such an array of injuries in the front row was very unfortunate, but it seems to be the norm these days that one area of the team gets hit each season.
At one stage last season, Baxter was unable to call on back-rowers James Phillips (knee), Kai Horstmann (hamstring), Dave Ewers (hamstring) and Ben White (knee), severely reducing his options in the back five of the scrum.
The year before, Hoani Tui was out with a calf strain while fellow tighthead props Mitchell and Chris Budgen were away with Wales at the World Cup and the Army at an international services competition. Baxter brought in Alan Paver on loan and he promptly injured his calf on his debut!
As if that wasn't bad enough, locks James Hanks (shoulder) and Peter Short (leg) were also out at the same time.
And in Exeter's first season in the top flight, the Chiefs' coaching staff were forced to bring in scrum-half James Honeyben for a month when both Garrick Cowley (shoulder) and Junior Poluleuligaga (hamstring) were out.
With three hookers ruled out so far this season, leaving Jack Yeandle and Chris Whitehead to carry the load in the first team, Baxter considered bringing a player in on loan.
However, with Bateman expected to be fit to face Bath in next week's second team match, the head coach has decided to stick to what he has got.
Mitchell's absence can also be absorbed, for now, as the coaches' habit of signing players who can play in more that one position bears fruit once again.
Brett Sturgess, Ben Moon, Hoani Tui and Carl Rimmer are all able to prop on both sides of the scrum should the need arise, although the Sandy Park hierarchy will be hoping Lady Luck shines on them for a while now.
Having started the season with a host of players unavailable due to various knocks, the squad is filling up again.
Don Armand – one of several summer signings to pull up lame during pre-season – got his first taste of action in an Exeter jersey earlier this week when he played 40 minutes at lock for the Braves in the A League win against London Irish.
Sireli Naqelevuki also continued his rehabilitation in that match, although Jack Nowell (back), Romana Graham (calf) and Hanks (collarbone) are a little way off featuring themselves.