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'Literally walking the corridor growling at people': How Exeter's 4 Lions are preparing

By Liam Heagney

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Exeter have backed their four-strong contingent to hit the ground running when they join up for the 2021 Lions tour to South Africa following this Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership final versus Harlequins. Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jonny Hill, Sam Simmonds and Stuart Hogg are the remaining four players who have yet to link up with Warren Gatland’s squad who are playing Japan at Murrayfield a couple of hours before Exeter will look to successfully defend their English league title. 

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The progress of Exeter to the business end of the Premiership season will see their players having to play catch up on their fellow Lions. Gatland had 25 players with him on the Channel Island of Jersey when training for the tour commenced on June 14 and another eight were present for training at the start of this week. 

It suggests the Exeter contingent will be at a disadvantage when they fly out with the Lions on Sunday to South Africa having two weeks and a week to make up on the players who have been with Gatland preparing to play the Japanese. 

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However, Chiefs boss Rob Baxter reckons his players are all ready to muck in and will enjoy a successful tour despite Hill taking some time to properly get his head around his May 6 inclusion in the squad and the awkward situation Hogg finds himself in having been demoted to the bench for last week’s semi-final, a position he is likely to occupy again versus Harlequins unless there is an injury in the back three.

“They have all been slightly different because they are not the same person,” said Baxter, explaining the different reactions of the four players to their Lions selection seven weeks ago. “They have all been a bit different in how they have dealt with it. Jonny Hill probably took a little while but he has been great in the last two, three weeks so I think he maybe took a little while to get his head around how he had to progress now, what had to happen before he went away.

Sam with the try-scoring and his huge involvement in the team and not being away internationally has probably been able to just lockdown, to zone down a bit easier than the rest of the guys in a way. Luke Cowan-Dickie is just an amazing individual who has just wanted to be on the field more and more and wanted to prove that it is Exeter first and he is going to be the guy on the field and he is going to make things happen so for him, I haven’t had to say a word to him. 

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“He is literally walking around the corridor growling at people if they are not getting out to training on time and telling everyone to get on with it and let’s get out there and win a trophy. And Stuart had dealt with it in a slightly different way, that it has happened for him on the back of being Scotland captain, on the back of coming here in his first season winning the double. 

“They have all dealt with it in slightly different ways but they have all been through it and they will all be fantastic for the Lions. I have got no doubts about that. I watch them in training, I watch them getting ready to go,” continued Baxter, who has also touted 2017 tour pick Jack Nowell for a mid-tour call up if an injury occurs.

“There is nothing they need to be concerned about when they join up with the Lions because if anything this [the Premiership final] is the absolute best preparation they can get, as tough a game as you can get. In a week’s time, they are going to be absolutely ready to go. They can have their rest after the Lions. They don’t need it now. They are ready to go, they’re flying.”

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'Literally walking the corridor growling at people': How Exeter's 4 Lions are preparing

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