Luke Cowan-Dickie admitted it was nice to "dust off the cobwebs" as he helped Exeter Chiefs make it two wins from two in pre-season with Saturday’s 25-19 victory over Ulster Rugby at Sandy Park.
The England international was getting his first taste of competitive action since June, when he came off the bench for Eddie Jones’ all-conquering side against Australia in Brisbane.
At the weekend, the 23-year-old Cornishman was given an hour’s work-out against the Irish province before being replaced by Tongan hooker Elvis Taione for the final quarter of the match.
But Cowan-Dickie showed he was building up nicely for the new 2016/17 season, producing one of his trademark, all-action displays that saw the Chiefs triumph thanks predominantly to tries from Don Armand, Will Chudley, Damian Welch and a Penalty Try.
"It was nice to get out there, it’s been a while and the lungs definitely felt it," joked Cowan-Dickie after the match.
"That said, the boys looked strong and we put in a decent enough performance.
"We disappointed to let a couple of tries in at the end, that was perhaps a lack of concentration on our part, but we had swapped a lot of boys in during the second half and that can sometimes happen in pre-season.
"Overall, though, everyone looks fit and raring to go for the new season."
Having already accrued pre-season wins over Ulster and the Scarlets (45-3), the Chiefs will wrap up their programme on Friday night when they make the trip to Newport to face yet more Guinness Pro12 opposition in the shape of the Dragons at Rodney Parade (7:30pm).
"I think the coaches have looked at most of the boys over these first two games," said Cowan-Dickie. "I think it will be a bit different for the next game, we probably won’t run as many players and it will be treated a lot more like a league game.
"Having Wasps first up in the Premiership is a pretty tasty first match, last year we had some really good games with them, but we’re looking forward to the start of the season and seeing what we can do."
Certainly visiting Ulster provided a much tougher test for the Chiefs than that of the Scarlets seven days earlier and Cowan-Dickie said having a decent work-out, even in pre-season, is vital to ensuring Exeter hit the new season firing on all cylinders.
"They [Ulster] played well, they never gave up and it was a tough old game," continued Cowan-Dickie. "I’m sure the boys have a few bruises after that, but overall it was a decent test for us. There are one or two things we needed to sharpen up on. A few scrums didn’t go our way and we made a few handling errors on the touchline, but that’s all stuff you can look at in training.
"For me, it was good to dust off the cobwebs as it’s been a while since I played. Having that contact is a lot different to what you do in training as you don’t want to hurt boys at all and you want to keep people fresh for the weekend.
"This week will be another step up again, we’re away from home and it will be another decent test for us. Hopefully we can go up there, play well and end pre-season with another win and be unbeaten."