Jack Yeandle is the new skipper at Sandy Park and he is excited to put the role into practice – provided he can get on the pitch.
After Australian international Dean Mumm departed Exeter Chiefs towards the end of the season, Rob Baxter was left looking for a captain.
Yeandle – who joined from Doncaster Knights in 2012 – took on the challenge as the Chiefs seek to go one better than last season and finish in the Aviva Premiership Rugby top four.
However, the 25-year-old hooker’s first challenge is to cement a starting jersey, with England hopeful Luke Cowan-Dickie leading the charge to displace him.
“Luke was really unfortunate not to get in the World Cup squad,” said Yeandle. “He had a great season last season and we battled it out a lot for that shirt.
“It’s not just Luke, there’s Elvis Taione as well, who was at the World Cup with Tonga, and Shaun Malton who has come in from Nottingham and looked really sharp in pre-season.
“And it’s not just across hooker, but across the whole squad. The strength this season has certainly gone up and the depth and hopefully that will pay dividends and when we do need to make a few changes every now and again, the quality of our performance won’t go down.
“I’ve got big shoes to fill but it’s nice to have the honour of leading the team, when I get on the pitch. To be club captain is something pretty prestigious and I have got to make sure I pull up standards throughout the club.
“When I came as a new player I didn’t go blurting out too much. I think it’s something I have grown into as I’ve featured more within the team and that has come about completely naturally.
“Just from playing and being in the environment a little bit more, I must have started talking more in games and talking more in training and the role has come in from there.”
That depth has been increased over the summer, with Baxter calling on a handful of reinforcements, including Italy centre Michele Campagnaro and Josh Jones, who crosses codes to join from St Helens.
The most vital addition, however, could prove to the be the dual signing of England lock Geoff Parling and Australian flanker Julian Salvi from Leicester Tigers.
The duo have followed Thomas Waldrom – who joined from Welford Road 12 months ago and finished his first season at Sandy Park as Aviva Premiership Rugby top try-scorer – and Yeandle is hoping they can have a similar impact.
“That’s the thing they have brought in, is that vast amount of experience of being at a top-end club,” he added.
“They have been to finals and they have been to big European semi-finals so they know what is expected. They can come into the club, drive on our ambition and push us up that extra step.”