It’s not been quite the same whirlwind start to the season as it was 12 months ago for Thomas Waldrom, but the Exeter Chiefs forward isn’t complaining as long as the Devon club continue to produce the winning formula.
England international Waldrom enjoyed an amazing first year in Chiefs colours, scoring 16 tries in total following his move from Aviva Premiership rivals Leicester Tigers.
His tally ensured he not only finished top of the touchdown pile for Rob Baxter’s side, but he was also crowned the first forward since Neil Back in 1999 to be the Premiership’s top try-scorer as the Chiefs narrowly missed out on a place in the end of season play-offs for the first time.
This team, the New Zealand-born No,8 has yet to cross the whitewash as a niggly groin injury and increased competition in the Exeter back-row have meant his game time has been somewhat restricted.
This Saturday, however, Waldrom is hoping to be part of Baxter’s first team plans for the visit of Harlequins to Sandy Park (3pm).
Like the Chiefs, Harlequins have enjoyed an impressive start to the new league campaign, winning three of their four games to date, as well as both of their European ties against Montpellier and Cardiff Blues in the past fortnight.
Waldrom admits the Londoners have already displayed a marked improvement in their play from last term and he is expecting a real challenge when the two lock horns in Round Five.
“We are confident in what we do, but we know what a tough team they are,” warned Waldrom. “We have looked at them and know what they have changed during pre-season, they have worked hard on things they weren’t so happy with last year, but it is about us doing the things we do well.
“I think we have to go and do what we do well .We have had a good few days of training and we have to take that into the game and be confident in what we are trying to do, we can’t go away from what we do well.
“It is about what we put out on the field, we have a game plan in place and it is up to us to go out and do it and do it as well as we can. Hopefully results will go our way, but it is about us being prepared coming into the game on Saturday.”
Much has been made about the acquisitions made by Baxter over the summer, which – on paper at least – make the Chiefs formidable opponents for anyone in England’s top-flight.
Waldrom accepts that is the case, but points to the continued progress of Exeter’s own young talents as a further reason as to why they are so much stronger this time around.
“I think we have players that have come in that are a bit more experienced and at the same time, we also have some young guys and it is their third season in the Premiership now, like [Jack] Nowell, [Henry] Slade and Dave [Ewers] and it is nice that we can build a team around those guys,” he added.
“Some of the Academy boys coming through have some great skills, but we have a core group of guys now that have a lot of Premiership experience and we can all add a little bit and it is about building on that now.
“Rob [Baxter], Ali [Hepher] and Rob [Hunter] have done a great job in finding out what they need for the squad and keep on building, so now it is about us putting those pieces together to move on and try to do better than we did last year.
“We know as a team what we need to do and we have to go out each week and perform those things to be that little bit better than we were last year.”