Ben Moon says he can feel a mood change with the Exeter Chiefs camp as the start of the new Aviva Premiership season draws ever closer.
Rob Baxter’s side wrap up their pre-season campaign this weekend with the final instalment of this year’s Westcountry Challenge Cup – a competition the Devon club have already secured with a game to spare.
Last weekend’s narrow 31-33 victory over Gloucester ensured the Chiefs made it three wins from three in pre-season, having already seen off the Cherry and Whites and Bath on home soil in recent weeks.
This Saturday, Moon will be part of a strong Chiefs squad who will travel to Bath to conclude their pre-season, just a week before they head to the Recreation Ground again for their seasonal opener against Mike Ford’s side.
And for the long-serving loose-head prop, he says he cannot wait to get stuck into the cut and thrust of English rugby’s top division for a sixth successive season.
"You can definitely see the mood is changing around the place," said the 26-year-old forward. "Each day we’re getting closer to the start of the season and the real action starting.
"Last week was probably the start of the process and bit by bit it’s picking up, even this past week it’s gone up another notch in intensity and focus and it will only get more and more as we get nearer that first game up at Bath."
Having sat out the opening two games due to some pre-season niggles, Moon returned to the Chiefs starting XV last Saturday at the Memorial Stadium.
"It was good to get out there again," he explained. "I had a few niggles early on in pre-season, but I’ve got over them now and I can’t wait for the new season to begin. It’s going to be another big season for us all, especially being back in the Champions Cup, but it’s also going to be pretty relentless as we haven’t got the LV breaks like in previous years.
"For sure the squad is going to be tested to the full, every week is going to be a real battle for whoever is playing, but the make-up of the squad this season is probably the strongest it’s ever been here at the club."
With the Chiefs narrowly missing out on reaching the Premiership play-offs for the first time last season, Moon – who is edging ever closer to reaching 100 league games for the Devon club – says there is a ‘burning desire’ within the ranks to push on again this term.
"Last season was good in a lot of ways, but we were also a little bit disappointed to just miss out on the play-offs," said Moon. "In the end it was only points’ difference that stopped us from getting in that top four.
"We know we can compete with the top teams in the division and that it was that blip around Christmas time – when we lost four games on the trot – that cost us in the end. Hopefully, we can get that consistency right this time round and really push on."
As Moon knows, however, the hard work continues this weekend against a Bath side, who last season were edged out in the Premiership final at Twickenham by Saracens.
"They [Bath] are always a quality outfit and that will certainly be the case again this season," added Moon.
"Games between us and them are normally good battles and with us having got the monkey off our back in terms of beating them in the league, I think we can go up there knowing we can get a result."
And with head coach Baxter bolstering the Chiefs squad with a plethora of new talent this summer, the Tiverton-born forward knows the competition that exists within the current squad will only bring the best out of everyone.
"In every position we have quality across the board," explained Moon. "Every one of us within the squad knows how big the competition for places is going to be, so it’s up to each of us to get our heads down and work as hard as we can."