exeter chiefsIgnacio Mieres says he is “excited” about the prospect of making his first-ever Aviva Premiership start for Exeter Chiefs in the Good Friday encounter with Sale Sharks at Edgeley Park.

A regular fixture on the Chiefs bench in recent weeks, the Argentine ace has now been promoted from the sidelines by Rob Baxter as one of three changes the head coach has made to his line-up from that which went down at home to high-flying Saracens last weekend.

With the Chiefs keen to end a run of four successive Premiership defeats, Mieres will form a new half-back partnership with the returning Haydn Thomas, whilst Welshman Phil Dollman returns to the Exeter midfield. Making way for the trio are Gareth Steenson, Junior Poluleuligaga and Jason Shoemark, the latter of whom has been unable to train this week due to illness.

For Mieres, though, his patient wait has finally paid dividends and he is now ready to assume the role of Exeter’s chief playmaker in this the club’s penultimate league fixture of the season.

“I am excited about starting the match,” he said. “It’s going to be my second start since I came here and I’m really looking forward to it. I’m here to play. I’ve trained hard and done everything I can to get in the first team – and having the chance to play ten or 15 minutes recently has been good.

“I have tried to make the most of it and that has given me a lot of confidence that the coaches have picked me to start a game.”

Mieres’ only other starting role for the Chiefs came back in early November when he produced a man-of-the-match display in his side’s 29-9 LV= Cup victory over London Wasps at Sandy Park.

The opportunity of starting, as well as the chance to impress the coaching staff sufficiently enough to earn himself a possible contract for next season, is something Mieres is clearly keen to make the most of.

“I’d like to stay next season,” he said. “I have not signed anything with any clubs. This is a great club, I like their philosophy, the way they train, the way they think and the way the guys are. I think I have improved my rugby, it has added a lot to my game coming to play for Exeter. It’s been a really good experience and I’ve really enjoyed my time here.”

And one man who will be keeping a close eye on Mieres in Stockport is Ali Hepher, the club’s assistant coach. Like the fly-half, Hepher is relishing seeing what Mieres will bring to the party against a Sharks side, who lost the corresponding fixture at Sandy Park back in November 24-19.

“It’s not only a big opportunity for Nacho, but for all the guys,” said Hepher. “Nacho has been going well in training, in the A league, and when he has come off the bench. We are fully aware of his ability and we’re looking forward to seeing what he can do.”

After recent setbacks against London Irish, Leeds Carnegie, Bath and Saracens, Hepher is hopeful that the club’s final two games of the campaign will see an upturn in fortunes and give the Chiefs something to take into their summer break.

Despite the losses of the past month, Hepher insists there has been no major post mortem into the way the side have performed. He said: “We’ve reset ourselves a little bit, but equally we’ve pointed out to the guys just how good we have been this season and that we have played some fantastic rugby at times.

“We know the areas we need to fix, which we will do, but we also feel if we get certain areas right that we can create some real problems for the opposition. As a club we’re still very much in a development phase coming into the Premiership, but our aim has always been to keep improving week on week. There are certain areas we need to pick up, but we’re also in a good piosition that when it clicks together it could be pretty special.

“You don’t become a bad side overnight, it is just about doing the right things we have done in the past and doing them well again. We have maybe dipped off on some things recently, but we will get that back by pushing in the right direction. As a team and as a club we are very keen to put in two quality performances for the rest of the season.”

With Sale just six points and a place below the Chiefs in the standings, victory on Good Friday would help the Chiefs to once more give themselves some breathing space over their rivals at the foot of the table.

“It’s exciting going to Sale in the Premiership,” said Hepher. “I dare say there will be a few there what with it being a bank holiday. It will be tough going up there and I’m sure because it is their last home game of the season that they will want to sign off on a high, but equally that can put pressure on them so hopefully we can go up there with some excitement and get stuck into them.”


15 Luke Arscott

14 Matt Jess

13 Phil Dollman

12 Sireli Naqelevuki

11 Nic Sestaret

10 Ignacio Mieres

9 Haydn Thomas

1 Brett Sturgess

2 Neil Clark

3 Hoani Tui

4 Tom Hayes (capt)

5 James Hanks

6 Tom Johnson

7 James Scaysbrook

8 Richard Baxter

16 Chris Whitehead

17 Ben Moon

18 Chris Budgen

19 Chad Slade

20 James Phillips

21 Junior Poluleuligaga

22 Gareth Steenson

23 Bryan Rennie