Exeter Chiefs Women: Head coach Susie Appleby on Premier 15s plans

By Sara OrchardBBC Sport
Exeter's coaching team of Susie Appleby (left) and Amy Garnett
Exeter's coaching team of Susie Appleby (left) and Amy Garnett won 165 England caps between them and played at four World Cups

Setting up a new team in the middle of a global pandemic has had its unique challenges.

But Exeter Chiefs Women have ambitious plans and expect to "hit the ground running" as soon as they get the green light to start pre-season training.

Since the Chiefs were awarded a three-year franchise to play in the Premier 15s in April, head coach Susie Appleby has been busy recruiting players as well as finding them jobs and places to live.

"Trying to persuade someone to come and play in an imaginary team and imaginary club because we can't invite them down to visit is quite challenging," she told BBC Sport.

It has led Exeter to recruit more overseas players than originally planned, with players set to arrive from Japan, New Zealand, the United States, Spain, Canada and the Netherlands, subject to visas being granted.

"Contracts should be finalised within the next week or so, and then we'll probably start announcing players," she added.

Appleby stressed that the bulk of the squad would be based on home-grown talent from Devon, Cornwall and Somerset but the influx of internationals is because they "want to be competitive from day one".

"Tony Rowe [Exeter Chiefs chairman] expects you to win the league in year one," said Appleby. "He is getting his head around the women's game and how it all works, the need for accommodation, the need for jobs."

Appleby's squad will share the facilities at Sandy Park with the Premiership-leading men's team while the likes of men's skills coach Ricky Pellow will take sessions with the women.

Comfort when players arrive is a priority knowing their overseas stars will have to be in quarantine for two weeks before Sandy Park is even seen or a rugby ball is touched.

The Chiefs have put an appeal on their website for fans to come forward who have rooms or houses available for rent for the players.

"It's not coaching right now," said Appleby. "I've just been round to a rental property to install a bed and put up a curtain."

Appleby and the club have managed to secure work for the majority of their new arrivals, with one Dutch player set to join an architect's firm.

Despite the hurdles being jumped and those still ahead Appleby can still see the positives.

"It is a challenge; it's more managing and planning for the future," she said. "The reason not to panic is, we have three years.

"Yes, coronavirus, has just added a whole new dimension to things, but all you can do is be really excited."

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