Six Nations can help Exeter Chiefs close the gap on Premiership rivals
Hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie hopes Exeter Chiefs can take advantage of playing some of the top sides in the Premiership during the Six Nations.
The Sandy Park outfit went down to a narrow 17-16 defeat against a Northampton side missing eight internationals last weekend.
The Chiefs host third-placed Bath this Saturday and travel to Saracens, who are second, the following weekend.
Exeter play Bath again in the LV= Cup semi-finals in early March and Cowan-Dickie hopes his side can string a few wins together.
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“We’ve got three or four really big games coming up and it’s a good time to have them,” said the 20-year-old.
“We don’t mind playing any side any day, any time it’s just that during the internationals you know they’ve got a few players away.
“If we can capitalise in these next two games and get some wins we’ll be moving up the table.”
Cowan-Dickie made his Premiership debut on Saturday as a replacement in Exeter’s defeat.
He was a late call-up to the side after the team run on Friday, when Chris Whitehead pulled out with an injury in his neck/shoulder area.
And the former England under-20s ace was delighted to make his league bow for the Chiefs at Sandy Park.
He said: “It’s a shame Chris had to pull out because of problems, but I was excited to get my Premiership debut.
“When I was first told I started gearing up. I was already a travelling reserve so I knew I there was a chance I could be playing and it was a great experience.”
Cowan-Dickie replaced Jack Yeandle with 19 minutes left of the contest and was part of a pack under pressure in the scrums in the closing stages.
While they managed to prevent Northampton’s pack driving over the line from a scrum, they did concede a couple of penalties and referee Greg Garner warned them that he was considering awarding a penalty try.
Cornishman Cowan-Dickie was pleased with his own contribution.
“The conditions were tough, the pitch was quite heavy,” he said. “I wouldn’t have minded if my Premiership debut had been on a nice hot day, but it was quite windy.
“I only had one line-out, which I hit, so I was happy with how it went.
“They were putting us under pressure in the scrums on our five-metre line in the last ten minutes.
“We knew what they were going to come with – a big scrum, big driving line-out. There were a couple of scrums that went down on the five-metre line and that’s the ref’s decision, which way it goes.
“On the last one we kept it up and as soon as we did that we held them out.”
Having worked their way in front, having been 10-9 down at the break, to lead 16-10 with time running out, the Chiefs players were clearly frustrated following the final whistle.
Cowan-Dickie thinks they have to be more clinical in the future.
“It’s annoying when you’re six points up and then you concede a try right next to the posts, they get the kick and you lose by a point,” he said.
“If we had been more clinical we could have built on the lead and closed the game out, but we didn’t.
“A couple of our errors helped them and built pressure on top of pressure, and it told in the end as they came away with the try.
“They had a few players out with the internationals and we thought it was our chance.
“We would have liked it if they’d had their full side out because that would have given us a good target.
“It’s disappointing we didn’t win. We were winning until the last couple of minutes but we weren’t very clinical in the end and they came away with the win.”