The Exeter wing Olly Woodburn has said the Chiefs have become used to being overlooked after they ended up empty-handed at last Sunday’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards despite their domestic and European double.
Liverpool were crowned team of the year and Jürgen Klopp won the coaching award after the Reds claimed their first Premier League title in 30 years in June, having become European champions in May 2019. Exeter, meanwhile, won their first European title before adding their second Premiership title a week later – 10 years after they were promoted to the top flight. They were shortlisted for the team of the year award but Liverpool ended up with the prize.
“It was interesting that Liverpool got a clean sweep, we did exactly the same as them in a different sport,” Woodburn said. “Personally, being biased, I would have liked a mention, either we get the team award or the manager award but we at Exeter Chiefs are used to getting overlooked a few times so we’ll just carry on. But I think we were deserving of some mention.”
The Exeter director of rugby, Rob Baxter, was more circumspect but also hinted at a feeling that the Chiefs remain something of an unknown quantity despite their success. “People involved in world sport or European sport, they don’t actually know anybody down here that well,” he said. “They see a snapshot of everybody on TV or interviewed in the media, the reality is they don’t really know that much about Exeter or Devon or the people who are here and that is not what we are doing it for, we are down here because we can achieve together, for each other for Exeter, Devon and the area.
“That is very much what we are about and that is what makes us what we are. It was one of those things that almost seems funny to even be talked about. These things are all about opinions and in the rugby community we have got some good opinions and we have got some negative opinions and I am sure you get that in the general sporting community as well.”
Baxter’s immediate focus is guiding Exeter to a fourth Premiership win on Boxing Day, having been forced to forfeit last weekend’s Champions Cup match against Toulouse due to a Covid-19 outbreak at the club. After introducing twice-weekly testing, Baxter has been able to name a side featuring just three changes from the one that beat Glasgow 42-0 last time out. Luke Cowan-Dickie and Ben Moon come into the front row for Jack Yeandle and Alec Hepburn respectively while the England centre Henry Slade is the most notable absentee with Ian Whitten starting at outside centre. Jonny May is back on the wing for the visitors Gloucester.
Fiji’s Semi Radradra returns to the Bristol side for his first appearance of the season for the trip to Harlequins but England’s Kyle Sinckler and Ben Earl are rested. For Harlequins there is a first Premiership start for the 20-year-old Louis Lynagh – son of the former Australia international Michael – on the wing. Northampton welcome back Dan Biggar and Lewis Ludlam for the visit of Worcester and in Sunday’s fixture, Dan Robson returns at scrum-half for Wasps who are away to a Sale side featuring the returning back rower Tom Curry.