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A year to remember for Yeandle

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Jack Yeandle will tell you it’s been a year to remember for him on a personal level, but looking ahead to 2016 the Exeter hooker is now hoping his good fortunes extend to that of leading the Chiefs to on-field success.

Handed the role of club captain at the start of the campaign following Dean Mumm’s decision to head home to Australia, the 26-year-old forward has settled well to his new leadership role at Sandy Park.

And away from the field, Yeandle – and his fiancee Beth – are also adapting to their role as parents to young Ava, who was born on December 9.

It has – in his own words – been a whirlwind few months for the Exeter-born player, who tomorrow will be hoping to kick-start the New Year by helping the Chiefs to overcome rivals Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens (3pm).

Sitting second in the current Aviva Premiership standings, Yeandle is well aware that although the Saints have failed to win in their last three fixtures, they still pose a considerable threat to Exeter’s ambitions on home turf.

Indeed, he insists pre-match that the Devon club are adhering to the adage that form is temporary and class is permanent.

"Obviously it is our full intention to go there and win again, but you can never go there expecting things to happen, you have to make them happen. Especially with how Saints are going at the moment," Yeandle said. "Who is to say they can't turn round and have an extremely big backlash?

"All teams pride themselves on their home performances, Saints will be no less, especially with their home crowd, they have a very passionate crowd up there, and they will be bitterly disappointed off the back of last week's result.

"We just have to make things happen with our own performances and then the result will look after itself.

"It won't just be the coaching staff that will be trying to fire them up for this game, especially on their own patch, it will be the players as well. I am sure the players will be disappointed by results there, especially the senior heads. They will want a big turnaround on their own patch and we have to expect that and we have to make it happen for us."

The Chiefs, however, will travel in confident mood having netted their sixth win in seven Premiership starts last Saturday when they overcame Sale Sharks at Sandy 33-17.

That victory ensured Rob Baxter’s side wrapped up another year on home soil with just one defeat to their name – that against Gloucester on January 9 – and Yeandle believes having such a strong fortress will be key to success for the Chiefs moving forward.

"Our home performances have gone extremely well. As a whole, they have been really positive and the most positive aspect is that there is definite room for improvement," added Yeandle reflecting on 2015.

"Looking at how we finished last season, we were points [difference] off a top four finish and we have progressed that through and matured into this season and we have finished the year in the top two.

"We go into the New Year with a whole new challenge, we start with Saints away which we are looking forward to, and we want to keep progressing and squeeze at the top of the table."

And it seems the he only downside for the Chiefs from the past 12 months was the frustration at not seeing off some of the lesser lights in the top-flight, which ultimately denied them a place in the top four.

Indeed, that was an area of weakness identified in the close season and the signs are that harsh lessons have been learned.

"That was certainly a big focus of ours in pre-season and off-season," Yeandle added. "We looked at all the fixtures and results and saw how they went and the key thing was that those games we lost, had we accumulated just one more point then we would have finished in the top four last season.

"It is more the mental focus than anything. Every game has a big physical challenge in the Premiership, especially this season, but it is about refreshing your brain and being really switched on to every aspect of play and every aspect of the game.

"I think there is a lot more trust in the team now. We have systems and structures that are here where ultimately you make the decisions on the pitch, but there is a lot more trust and belief in the players.

"We are a good team and we have proved that with results and performances and it is about believing in what we can do and believing what we can push on and achieve."
 

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