Tui ready to return for the Chiefs in cup
PROP Hoani Tui has declared himself fit to return for Exeter Chiefs this weekend after missing the entire season so far.
The tighthead pulled a hamstring during the warm-up to the final pre-season match at Glasgow at the end of August.
The 28-year-old's injury saw Wales international Craig Mitchell start the season as the first choice in the No. 3 jersey, but he tore a bicep muscle in the third match of the campaign.
That has left summer signing Carl Rimmer to hold the fort, starting the last seven matches in the key position anchoring the scrum.
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Tui's return will be a boost to head coach Rob Baxter, who is expected to make sweeping changes to his side for Sunday's LV= Cup clash away against London Welsh (4pm).
"I think I'm fit to run out and play, it's just a matter of getting picked now," said Tui. "I'm in contention.
"I've been out for nearly 12 weeks now after I picked up an injury in the last pre-season game, which was a bummer.
"These type of games give a chance to the guys who haven't been playing and the guys coming back from injury to find their stride again.
"Hopefully if I'm picked this week, which would probably be off the bench, I can get 20 minutes here or there. I'm looking forward to getting back into it."
Tui hopes the extra time he has spent working with the club's fitness coaches and medical staff will serve him well in the long run as it has given him the chance to get over a couple of other bumps and bruises.
The New Zealander said: "I've done two pre-seasons in a row so it's given me a chance to get over other niggles I've had during the past couple of years. Hopefully they won't be plaguing me during the rest of the season.
"It has been tough. No one likes being injured, especially at our club because you train a lot harder than anyone else. You're in a lot earlier and you're the last ones to leave."
Now that he is back in contention, Tui hopes to reclaim his place in the first team for the rest of the campaign.
Baxter has shown in the past he will reward a good display by handing that player a place in the first team, as Tui found to his cost two seasons ago when Chris Budgen claimed the tighthead spot off him.
"Rob's always said if you go out there and have a stand-out game you're going to be in the team the next week," said Tui.
"He's always done that, as I found out during our first year in the Premiership. I got a niggling injury and Budge stepped in and he played extremely well and kept the jersey.
"It's all about doing the hard yards and when you get a chance you show the coaches that you're there to play and there to stay in the team."
As well as the likes of Tui, Baxter is likely to turn to the club's batch of promising youngsters this weekend as he rests the players who started last weekend's 33-9 defeat of Worcester in the Premiership.
Tui thinks they have a great chance to prove themselves against the Exiles in the Anglo-Welsh competition.
"The guys who have been playing week in, week out have had a lot of rugby. They've had a week off this week and they deserve it," he said.
"We've had a few A League games and it's a chance for those guys to step up, especially the young guys.
"We've got some really talented academy members with the likes of Luke Cowan-Dickie, Sam Hill and Jack Nowell. These guys have got England caps at under-20s and are pushing the older guys."