It's good to see rugby getting an equal billing to football
RUGBY'S returned and it's bigger than ever before. We're back in the groove, weekends are now fully booked for the next eight months as the oval ball returns with a bang and the season proper is under way.
Thanks to BT Sport, those who want to watch rugby union from Friday through to Sunday can, as they lay on a veritable feast of the 15-man game!
If, like me, you've been studying the communications from the new broadcaster closely you will have noticed the subtle change in the presentation of our game.
Gone is the old Sky Sports moniker "we've got football…. and a bit of rugby". In its place is the equal billing of the two sports, unseen before since the inception of pay-to-view television.
Sign up NOW for a 6 week training program starting in January 2014 and get a 30% discount!
Start a fresh in 2014 with a Personal Trainer! I come to you and design a program to achieve your goals!!
Terms: Within the Mid-North Devon Region. One Voucher per person.
Contact: 07855 055 682
Valid until: Friday, January 31 2014
You will have also noticed the adverts with Leicester's marquee player Manu Tuilangi stood opposite Manchester United's star striker Robin Van Persie and the posters with England captain Chris Robshaw promoting the impending three games a weekend.
This is a major coup for the product of rugby union.
Our superstars are suddenly being promoted with equal importance as the £85m men!
With the Rugby World Cup looming large around the corner, I can only see this endorsement building as product rugby begins to flourish into a global brand.
The significant news too is that our own team is situated in this perfect storm.
Sandy Park itself will play host to three pool games when the international showpiece kicks off.
Having seen some of the initial plans for the region, and the legacy that follows, I am heartened even more so!
Before all of that though the stadium is due to grow from 10,744 to nigh on 15,000 capacity, we'll embark on our fourth Premiership season, take a second shot at the Heineken Cup and the visit of the current European Champions Toulon – yes mother, Johnny Wilkinson will be playing in Devon!
One can see why this really is an exciting time for rugby but, more pertinently, the Exeter Chiefs.
An Englishman, a Welshman, a Tongan and a Samoan all ran out onto the pitch at Sandy Park; each one with multiple caps for his country playing rugby… this is not the beginning of a joke, nor is it the team that played on Saturday, this is actually a tribute to the quality of the A League competition that our 'fringe' players, if you can call them that, are now involved in.
Without pausing to mention the multiple age group caps or stars of the future, 'Monday night lights' as the playing squad call it, throws up some pretty tasty games.
Take last Monday which saw our guys narrowly vanquished by the Saracens Storm in a 30-39 thriller with the lead changing hands on numerous occasions and nine tries being scored from all over the park.
With teams often decided a day or so before the match there is a slight cavalier attitude to the games with the emphasis firmly on attack as squads run out and look to win in the most entertaining manor.
Having played my fair share of games in the A League I can testify that the ferocity and intensity isn't too far shy of the Premiership itself! If for whatever reason your weekend is booked out and you can't make the game on Saturday, this is a great chance to see world class rugby players and I would implore you to pop along this coming Monday to watch the guys take on Wasps for the second time in two days!
Last weekend was not quite the best if you're a rugby fan of teams beginning Ex.
In the words of head coach Rob Baxter the Chiefs got 'taught a lesson,' across at Franklin's Gardens, the Braves lost in the last five minutes to a strong Saracens Storm while yours truly was on the receiving end of a tight loss on his debut for the Cockles.
Having listened to the many debriefs at Sandy Park early in the week I think it's fair to say that the guys won't be as unfortunate as they were on Saturday again; it seems like every bounce just didn't fall for a Chiefs man. Neither, I suspect, will they be as charitable; as Rob mentioned we do seem to have a poor game once a season although it is peculiar to see it this early.
The Chiefs, however, do bounce back well from a hard loss and I for one expect Wasps to feel the backlash over the weekend and into Monday as we look to set the record straight in the Premiership and A League.
Meanwhile up the road at Taunton, Exmouth will be looking to get a result in a game with a lot of local interest. It sees four former Chiefs line up as coaches (Jon Hill and Bob Armstrong versus Tony Yapp and Keith Brooking) and a fair few mates going head to head on the pitch too.
Add into the mix the Greene King Double Header at Sandy Park on Sunday and there is a feast of rugby at for everyone to savour… it's great to be back!
And finally, following up from last week where I introduced everyone to the 'special' character at Exmouth; loosehead prop extraordinaire George Savage, this week he continued to endear himself to his teammates in his own indomitable way by missing training on Thursday night before the club's first ever game in the National Leagues.
Unfortunately his car broke down on the way to the club. On his tardy arrival time 'Sav' was unrepentant. Rather than apologise profusely to those around him the big man offered yet another pearl from his book of wisdom: "Training is for people who need to improve, so I didn't really need to be there anyway." More wisdom next week.
Until the next time, stay safe and enjoy your rugby!