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Atkins already settled into Chiefs life

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He may well be one of the new kids on the block at Sandy Park, but summer signing Ollie Atkins admits he already feels at home with the Exeter Chiefs.

A team bonding trip to Spain on his first official day with the Devon club allowed the 26-year-old Aussie to quickly get up to speed with his new team-mates following his switch from Scottish Pro12 outfit Edinburgh.

And now a couple of weeks into pre-season, the towering forward is continuing his settling in process by playing an active part during the club’s gruelling pre-season programme under the watchful eye of head coach Rob Baxter.

Keen for a fresh challenge following two seasons north of the border, Atkins – who has also had playing stints back home with the NSW Waratahs and Western Force – acknowledges that the standards being set already in pre-season by the Chiefs is helping to drive his own levels of performance and fitness upwards.

"While the coaches are setting the standards, a lot of it is player-driven standards as well," said Hobart-born forward. "We want to uphold those high standards and as a new guy it is clear what the standards are and you have to uphold them and even add to them as well.

"Everything we do down here is for a purpose. There is no mindless running and it isn’t a mindless slog – it is quite entertaining and quite enjoyable. But when you cross that line in training, it is a buy-in that everyone is going for so everyone is excited to start playing rugby.

"We started going through plays on day one and Ali Hepher is taking us through all the knowledge on the board. It pushes the new players to come up to speed quite quickly. We have got our defensive systems set already and we are really focused on our rugby."

As is the case for every new campaign, pre-season is a necessary evil for any player and although it can be punishing, both mentally and physically, Atkins admits the vital preparation done now can make all the difference later in the season.

"Everyone is working hard and seems to be getting on well and it is a great environment and great culture to be a part of," added Atkins, who has previously represented Scotland at A team level.

"Everyone is very welcoming and there aren’t any cliques or anything in this group and everyone just seems to get on with everyone and is here for a common goal, which is obvious from the first few days of training."

Atkins is one of a number of new faces that have been brought to Devon by Baxter, who despite doing his own in-depth research on the player, was given a glowing endorsement by compatriot and former Exeter skipper Dean Mumm prior to him returning back to Sydney at the end of last season.

The pair engaged in detailed dialogue about the Chiefs prior to his move – and another former Exeter player, John Andress, was another to give a glowing reference of the Exeter set-up to Atkins.

"I played up in Edinburgh with a guy who played here a few years ago in John Andress and he said he enjoyed himself down here," continued Atkins.

"You don’t hear a bad word about it here. This club sells itself and I just wanted to be a part of it. The way the Chiefs have operated over the last few years has seen them go from strength to strength.

"Living down here is also a bit warmer than Scotland and there is a beach nearby, so I’ll be getting my board soon and going for a surf."

And Atkins will get the chance to test local waters this week when the Chiefs continue their pre-season training with a trip to Exmouth beach on Tuesday.
 

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