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Lees loving unexpected success at Exeter Chiefs

Mitch Lees has come a long way in the last two years – in more ways than one.

The Exeter Chiefs lock was plucked from relative obscurity in the summer of 2013 by London Welsh head coach Justin Burnell and shipped over from New South Wales to Oxford.

After impressing at the Kassam Stadium and helping the Exiles secure promotion to Aviva Premiership Rugby, he completed the switch to Sandy Park.

He soon made his Chiefs debut against London Welsh and with 11 league appearances now under his belt, the 26-year-old is preparing to take on his former employers again this weekend.

And the build-up has Lees in a reflective mood.

“I was a mechanic straight out of school and I worked in a bank after that,” recalled the second row. “I always wanted to play professional rugby in Australia but I never really got a chance.

“I got offered a go at London Welsh last year, which I was grateful for. I got in contact with Justin Burnell and he pulled me over from Australia and I find myself very thankful for that opportunity.

“It’s great now – playing professional rugby at Exeter Chiefs, third on the ladder, quarter-finals in the Challenge Cup and LV= Cup semi-finals as well. I would have never thought this would happen two years ago.

“Coming to the Premiership I didn’t know how much game time I would get at Chiefs. They have got some quality locks already and I thought I would maybe get a game here and there.

“I started the first half a dozen games and I’ve got 11 Premiership appearances already. I’m ecstatic, I can’t believe I’ve played this much already and the season is still going so there is plenty of time to go.”

And while Lees admits it is difficult to watch his old club struggle through this season without a win to their name, he can at least revel in the way his career is panning out.

“They had a lot of ambition to go well and it’s a bit difficult to watch week in, week out,” he added. “It’s tough for guys who are my friends.

“First and foremost I look for my home club to go well but it’s hard. No matter who you are, you want to see old friends go well and it would be nice to see them get something out of the season, but it hasn’t gone that way.

“I try not to think too far ahead in the future. I’m just enjoying my time at the moment, I’ve got another year here at Chiefs and hopefully that leads to many more.

“I’m just enjoying my time in professional rugby because I didn’t think this would be happening.”

Each month Aviva is giving fans their say on who deserves to win the coveted Aviva Premiership Rugby Player of the Month award with the chance to win four tickets to an Aviva Premiership Rugby game of their choice! Become the 10th judge and vote by visiting www.aviva.co.uk/10thjudge open until midnight on Thursday 5 March

 

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