Chiefs wing Matt Jess insists Exeter’s established XV stars will be anxiously looking over their shoulders as the latest crop of young guns prepare to do battle in this year’s Singha Premiership Rugby 7s Series.
The 32-year-old will be playing in this year’s competition, while also taking on a coaching and mentoring role helping to guide the Chiefs’ young guns and identify the next Henry Slade or Jack Nowell.
The Singha 7s is the first opportunity of the season for Exeter’s extended squad to put their hands up for selection for the Aviva Premiership Rugby challenge that follows in September.
Exeter face a daunting challenge on July 23 in Group B as they host Bath Rugby, Bristol Rugby and Wasps in what is sure to be a mouth-watering weekend of 7s action in the South West.
And Jess is convinced the latest young Exeter stars off the Sandy Park production line have what it takes to be a major force in this year’s competition.
“It is not spoken about but in the back of your mind you know players are out there fighting for your position,” said Jess.
“At the end of the day if you are not in the shirt then you want everyone to be doing well for Exeter, and when your chance comes you have to grab it.
“For the youngsters, who haven’t really played in front of a big crowd or in a high-pressure tournament, it is a great opportunity. It gets guys out there and gives them great experience.
“For the past three years, I have coached along with Ricky (Pellow) and seen the lads get some exposure and when we got to the finals it was brilliant.
“It all sets it up for them, the next step, and the next professional contract so I think it is a massive platform for pushing players on.”
There has been plenty of cause for celebration at Sandy Park this month, with Exeter Chiefs' England trio Nowell, Slade and Luke Cowan-Dickie all signing new contracts with the Premiership club.
And after also reaching the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final last year at Twickenham; Jess is convinced there is a feel-good factor around at Sandy Park presently that can only help the Chiefs in the Singha 7s.
“Singha 7s is about breeding young players, like Henry Slade and Jack Nowell, who played Singha 7s and now they are fully-fledged England internationals,” he added.
“It does a lot for the game and it is a good build-up towards the start of the season and hopefully we will get the crowds here, like at Gloucester, which will be outstanding.
“Playing here and playing local rivals is massive. A lot of those teams have come on, and a few internationals play in our sevens and it is not just getting into 15s.
“A lot of those players have gone on to England honours. There are so many pathways for young guys, young university guys who come in.
“There are always people watching. So for those guys, you just tell them to enjoy the experience, they’ll get a lot from it.
“What you can’t teach them is to play in front of 8,000-10,000 people, you have to get them playing.”
The Singha Premiership Rugby 7s kicks off on 22 July at Cardiff Arms Park with the Finals at the Ricoh Arena on Sunday 7 August. For tickets and details visit premiershiprugby.com/singha7stickets