By Mark Stevens
Dave Ewers aims to lead from the front when he lines-up in the Exeter Chiefs side to face Leicester Tigers in Sunday’s Anglo-Welsh Cup Final at the Twickenham Stoop (3pm).
The imposing back-row has endured a frustrating campaign so far this season, featuring in just six games for the Devon club due to a run of frustrating injuries.
One of those performances, however, came last weekend when the 26-year-old forward came of the bench to help the Chiefs advance into Sunday’s showdown with a 24-7 victory over rivals Harlequins.
His 30-minute cameo showed no sign of ring-rustiness as he wreaked havoc on the Londoners with some of his trademark, rampaging runs through the heart of their defence.
The Exeter coaching staff were clearly delighted to see Ewers back out on the pitch and they have wasted little time in drafting them into their starting XV for what is a third successive Anglo-Welsh Cup Final appearance.
In 2014, Ewers was part of the Chiefs side that overcame Northampton Saints at Sandy Park to lift the club’s first major piece of silverware and now he wants to repeat the feat against English rugby’s most decorated side.
The Tigers, though, will be no pushovers and with them still licking their wounds following a home humbling by the Chiefs just over fortnight ago in the Aviva Premiership, Harare-born Ewers is expecting a significant backlash when the two sides meet again.
“We know it will be a step up from last week,” said Ewers. “We beat them at home only a few weeks ago, so that will still be a bit raw for them. We’ve spoken this week about their threat and we know they’ll come at us all guns blazing, so we’re aware we have to come to the party ourselves.”
Having lost only twice in all competitions since the end of October – both times to French opposition in the European Champions Cup – the Chiefs will be looking to maintain their impressive run of form that has guided them not only to Sunday’s final, but also into the top two of the Premiership.
“Sunday is going to be a massive game for both clubs, but we’re all very excited about it,” continued Ewers. “Last week was awesome to get the win, but we know the job is not over and that we have to produce the goods again this weekend.”
Ewers is one of a handful of changes the Chiefs have made to their line-up, which also includes starts for international props Moray Low and Greg Holmes, Jack Maunder comes in at scrum-half, while Max Bodlly’s switch to the centre means a start for recently-crowned Premiership Player of the Month, James Short, on the wing.
Exeter’s mix of youth and experience has served them well in the competition – not just this year, but previous years as well – and Ewers says he’s excited to play alongside some of the club’s rising starlets.
“We’ve got loads of quality youngsters coming through and it’s all very exciting,” continued Ewers. “You look at the likes of Stu Townsend and Jack Maunder, they’ve come into the side – albeit through injuries – but they’ve grabbed their opportunity with both hands. It’s the same for the likes of Simmo in the pack, he’s be tearing up recently and doing a great job for the team.
“In the past we’ve had the likes of Jack, Henry and Luke who have gone on to play for England, but now we’ve got another batch coming through as well.”