With the backdrop of some tantalizing Six Nations Rugby ahead one may overlook the importance of Northampton’s visit to Sandy Park, Ian Whitten, however, is not one of those. David Challis has been into the Exeter Chiefs camp as they prepare for a one vs two clash against Northampton Saints.
He brings us all the news on the squad for the weekend as well as words on Chiefs new-signing Sam Hidalgo-Clyne. Not to mention and interview with Ian Whitten who is preparing for his 150th league appearance.
Ian Whitten set to hit 150 Milestone
150 League appearances for one club is a hell of an achievement, but to do so in just eight years is even more impressive. In that time Whitten has been to premiership finals and seen Exeter Chiefs grow into the powerhouse it is today.
“I definitely thought the potential was there pretty early on”, Ian Whitten told us when asked about whether he believed the club could grow as it has.
Ever the professional though Whitten continues to look forwards saying “the challenge now is can we convert it into trophies”.
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Coming from Ulster was always going to be a tough change. Whitten told us upon arrival “I set myself a target, if I could play a couple of games a month I wouldn’t miss home so much”. It is fair to say he surpassed that expectation fairly comfortably.
The one regret that Whitten may have is his lack of involvement in the Irish setup. Due to restrictions his move to Chiefs effectively his international career. However, Whitten appears comfortable with his decision and joked, “centre has never been a weak position” for Ireland so he felt that the move was the correct one.
Baxter pays tribute to Club Stalwart
Director of Rugby Rob Baxter was quick to point out the achievements of his centre. Noting that his work off the field has been as important as on it.
“He’s such a good trainer and so professional, he’s still one of our best and most regular, reliable trainers, he’s one of the last guys to leave the club because he does a full professional recovery every single day”. Baxter went onto say, “he’s given himself the opportunity to play a lot of rugby. He’s thoroughly earned every minute he’s had on the pitch.”
Whitten, and other senior player’s experience is what sets Exeter apart. Yet Baxter is also working on boosting the side’s future roster too.
Club news – Signing of Sam Hidalgo-Clyne
Last week the news-broke that Chiefs were to sign Scottish International scrum-half Hidalgo-Clyne. With a number of young scrum-halves in the ranks, some were slightly confused by the decision but Baxter provided clarity on the though process.
Baxter felt the need for a third senior scrum-half to compliment Townsend and Maunder. He also believed that Sam Hidalgo-Clyne will a lot to the squad.
“you want to bring someone in who A is a good player and B has development potential and we See Sam as that kind of a guy. He’s already played international rugby, played numerous high competition game a he’s the right age to fit in with the demographic”.
Round 11 key fixture – squad update
Looking ahead to this weekend Baxter provided a squad update that looks fairly positive for Chiefs fans. Sam Hill is currently struggling with a dead calf and as a result, misses out at the weekend.
However, the return of Alec Hepburn to the bench will be a welcome sight to fans.
— Exeter Chiefs (@ExeterChiefs) February 21, 2020
EXEvNOR – Top of the table clash
If Exeter Chiefs win this weekend, they can go nine points clear at the top. However, if Northampton picks up the win, the Chiefs may be knocked off top spot. Ian Whitten was therefore quick to point out the importance of this fixture.
“it’s a massive game, one vs two is always a fixture that gets your attention”
Baxter was also quick for his side not get ahead of themselves. He said, “as great as it would be to get some breathing space at the top, the reality of is we have to turn up and perform”. The side is clearly still feeling the scares from that loss to Sale in their last home game so expect a reaction this weekend.
Much will be learned from this weekend’s game; these two sides have been in mesmerizing at points this season. However, both have also shown themselves capable of a slip-up. Expect fireworks and desperation to win from both sides this weekend.
Exeter Chiefs v Northampton Saints – Sandy Park. Sat, February 22
“Main Photo Credits”
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