Exeter fly-half Gareth Steenson has landed himself a coaching role at a club who were once the Chiefs’ fiercest rivals in the Championship.
While Exeter have long since departed the English second tier and gone to win the Premiership title in 2017, the fortunes for nearby Devon rivals Plymouth Albion haven’t been as extravagant.
After 13 seasons in the Championship, they slipped down to National League One in 2015 and have been trying to fight their way back up ever since.
The battle will now be aided by the addition of Exeter’s leading all-time points scorer after he agreed to help out coaching the Albion backs while still playing for Rob Baxter’s Chiefs next season.
“This is a great opportunity for me,” said the 35-year-old Irishman who joined Exeter in 2008 after initially playing for Rotherham and Cornish Pirates following his move from Northern Ireland. He is contracted at Sandy Park until the end of the 2019/20 season.
A great opportunity for myself & looking forward to working with the guys @AlbionRFC for the season ahead. Also really excited for the year ahead on the pitch with the @ExeterChiefs lads. Promises to be another big year for the club. Here’s hoping for successful year for both ? https://t.co/cWDgH1yukS
“It will be great to work with the guys in Plymouth and get to know them. The last time I actually played against Plymouth would have been about 10 years ago. I always remember them as being a tough side.
“Continuing to play at Exeter and coaching at Plymouth fits the bill for me. It’s great to be a player, but a fantastic opportunity to be in a different environment and taking on a coaching role. Being a player gives you a good understanding of the game.
“Everything has changed since I started playing rugby. I’m not sure about my coaching style – I’ve only ever had two or three coaches, so I’ve been quite lucky. It’s about me coming in and helping out and sharing my knowledge.
? GARETH STEENSON TO JOIN ALBION AS A COACH
Incredible news for Albion to have secured Gareth's services for the forthcoming season! Gareth commented; "This is a great opportunity for me."
? READ MORE: https://t.co/V9mbHoKJ99
— Plymouth Albion (@AlbionRFC) July 4, 2019
“My playing style had to evolve and the way we play at Exeter is an attacking brand of rugby. We’ll see how it goes in Plymouth and what style of rugby they like.”
Steenson’s first coaching role came about following an approach from Albion boss Ben Gulliver, who is new to the job. Carl Rimmer, Steenson’s former Chiefs team-mate who retired from the game after a stroke last year, is also involved as an assistant, taking charge of scrums and forward play.
“Ben realises the club has been doing quite well, so no-one’s going to come in and rip it all up. He knows the place is in good shape,” continued Steenson, who opened The Stand Off, an Exeter sports-themed bar last year, with business partner Rimmer.
Gulliver, who also has Dan Mugford assisting, added: “I’m building a group of people around me that I trust and can support me in a way that we can develop the team. Gareth has the experience and knowledge, at a high level, that can deliver a stepped change in the skills of Albion players.”
WATCH: Part one of The Academy, the six-part RugbyPassdocumentary series on how Leicester Tigers develop their young players
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.