Head Coach Susie Appleby is relishing the challenge that the next four weeks of Allianz Premier 15s fixtures will bring for her Exeter Chiefs side.
Buoyed by back-to-back wins over Worcester Warriors (19-7) and DMP Sharks (31-6), the latter secured with tries from Garnet Mackinder (2,) Laura Delgado, Kate Zackary and Patricia Garcia, Appleby still felt the need to be slightly critical of her side’s showing, even though they collected all five points on the day.
The response from her squad since that win at the Northern Echo Arena has been impressive in training – and now she is hoping that continues as they prepare to welcome Wasps to Sandy Park tomorrow (1pm).
‘’We knew what we had to get better and hopefully we have,” said Appleby. “We’ve worked on that (improved performance) for the last two weeks and it’ll show on the field, but the proof is in the pudding as they say.’’
Tomorrow’s fixture is the first of four consecutive games for Appleby’s side that will see them face last seasons semi-finalists Wasps and Loughborough Lightning, alongside reigning champions Saracens and fellow new team Sale Sharks. Last round, Wasps suffered a 33-27 defeat to Saracens, however they will be buoyed by their second-half performance that saw them score 24 unanswered points to almost snatch victory.
Appleby sees the next month as an opportunity for her side to understand where they are within the league and the calibre of side they will have to regularly compete with if they are to achieve success in the league.
‘’I’m excited about these next four games to see where we can progress to,” continued Appleby. “We’ve got some really good challenges coming, top four sides and all respect to who we’ve played, that’s where we want to be aiming.
‘’We’re sitting at 11 points, which is quite pleasing. The challenge for us now is how many points we can amass each game, each time we turn out, whatever those points look like and I’ve handed that over to the girls to take ownership of, to get more of that understanding of how the league works and how you achieve ‘success’ in the premiership.’’
Appleby also confirmed a first call-up into the first team squad for young hooker for Daisy French.
‘’Daisy’s hopefully going to come off the bench on Saturday at hooker for the first time, which is a really exciting progression for her.’’
Appleby largely keeps faith with the same side that has produced the goods over the previous matches, with just one change to the starting XV from the game against DMP Sharks. Ebony Jefferies replaces Alex Powell, so Poppy Leitch moves back into the second-row as a result.
On the bench, there are welcome returns to match fitness for American international winger Jennine Duncan and Japanese prop forward Sachiko Kato, neither of whom have featured for the Chiefs since the opening two rounds of the season.
That consistency in selection has been key for Appleby’s side thus far this season, although she is well aware of the size of the challenge facing her side against a star-studded Wasps side.
‘’Their recruitment has been astonishing,’’ states Appleby. ‘’They’ve got the Sevens players and add that to their already current England internationals. They’ve got Claire Malloy, one of the best 7s in the world. I’ve probably missed players out but we will pay them the utmost respect because they are a quality side.
‘‘You treat Wasps as they are, a really solid team, amazing culture but they can deliver really good performances week in week out.’’
Appleby though, retains total confidence in the qualities of her side, especially after the presence of several of the men’s coaches at training.
‘‘It’s been a really good two weeks, really solid. Some of the men’s coaches have been up which has added an extra impetus and an extra bit of ‘je ne sais quoi’ to our training which has been awesome.’
‘’If we stick to what we’ve been working on, I think we can do well and that’s the challenge for us; how do we perform against a team that is full of internationals? I guess Saturday will show us.’’
15. Merryn Doidge
14. Lottie Holland
13. Lauren Cattell
12. Gabby Cantorna
11. Garnet Mackinder
10. Taylor Black
9. Patricia Garcia
1. Michaella Roberts
2. Emily Tuttosi
3. Laura Delgado
4. Poppy Leitch
5. McKinley Hunt
6. Ebony Jefferies
7. Kate Zackary
8. Linde Van der Velden (capt)
16. Daisy French
17. Sachiko Kato
18. Kayleigh Armstrong
19. Alex Powell
20. Abbie Fleming
21. Ffion Lewis
22. Flo Robinson
23. Jennine Duncan