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Welch says ‘more to come’ from Chiefs

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Exeter lock Damian Welch believes there is still "more to come" from the Chiefs this season, despite an encouraging start to the new Aviva Premiership season for the Devon club.

Undone 19-17 on the opening day away to local rivals Bath, Rob Baxter’s side bounced back to winning ways at the first attempt last weekend, sinking visiting London Irish 38-11 with a six-try blast at Sandy Park.

Returning England star Jack Nowell scored twice in the game, whilst there were also touchdowns for Luke Cowan-Dickie, Don Armand, James Short and Gareth Steenson, who also landed four conversions for the hosts.

It was, according to Welch, just the tonic the Chiefs needed after the frustration of coming so close against Bath just seven days earlier.

He said: "The fact that we came so close, but just fell short against Bath was obviously a bit of a kick in the teeth, so it was good to get back to Sandy Park and get good a win.

"We put right some of the things we got wrong against Bath too, so that was quite satisfying."

Indeed, it was a much more ruthless and clinical display from the Chiefs, who this weekend make the long trek to Newcastle Falcons for their latest top flight engagement.

For Welch, though, getting a win on the board so early in the season is seen as vital and now he wants the Chiefs to kick-on further at Kingston Park.

"It is one of those things where, every season, you worry about getting that first win – it’s human nature I suppose," he added. "We talk a lot about making Sandy Park a fortress and if we are going to do that then we need to be winning all of our home games.

"We were all kicking ourselves after the Bath game because we didn’t impose ourselves as much as we would have liked in that one.

"Our maul was a bit ineffective and our scrum was ineffective, but I think against Irish, what people saw was a good performance from the forwards who wanted to put right the mistakes of the previous week."

Although it was a positive outcome for the Chiefs, one which brought the necessary five-point haul, Welch believes the current crop of players at Sandy Park have the capabilities to achieve so much more.

"You would like to think there is more to come," continued the 31-year-old. "This is certainly the most exciting squad that I have ever been a part of. It is one of those squads where you could conceivably pick a couple of teams that could maintain a high standard in the Premiership.

"There is more exciting stuff to come. We have strength in depth in the forwards which will marry to an exciting backline. I don’t think Jessy has been out of a Premiership squad in the three and a half years since I have been at the Chiefs, but that just shows there is absolutely no place that can be taken for granted here and that is really pushing the squad as a whole.

"With Shorty coming in and Olly Woodburn coming in, coupled with the likes of Nowellsy and Michele Campagnaro – who are both internationals – that is really seeing us push forwards."

And it’s not just in the back division where the competition is red-hot, equally Welch knows his own role within the team faces massive competition with the summer captures of Ollie Atkins and Geoff Parling.

Welch said: "It does put massive pressure on your shoulders as a player. For me personally, with Geoff coming in, it is the same thing. Geoff is a British & Irish Lion, he is a very talented and consistent player and he is one of those guys who you know is going to do a lot of work this year.

"That is the nature of the beast though. All I can do is keep playing as well as I can and give Rob a few selection headaches."
 

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