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Premiership Rugby Cup: Exeter Chiefs are pleased to announce the return of Cup rugby after a break from the season

Exeter’s last Premiership Rugby Cup game was a 49:22 semi-final loss to Harlequins at Sandy Park in February 2020

Exeter manager Ricky Pellow has welcomed the return of the Premiership Rugby Cup after a year-long hiatus.

The tournament was not played last season to reduce the backlog of games caused by Covid-19 delays.

With the Reserve A League not restarting either, Pellow gives young players the rare chance to impress.

“It’s really good to get this group back together and put on a Chiefs jersey, for some of them the first time since they signed up,” he said.

“We loved this competition as it was bred with players in the past and we will be using it for the same format this year.”

Players like Jack Nowell, Henry Slade, Sam Simmonds, Tom O’Flaherty and Jack Maunder have all made their debuts in the various iterations of the Premiership Cup competition and Pellow hopes this will be a similar path for the club’s current youth players.

“Through the entire Covid experience and the result that has resulted, there have been people who have longed for game time and games,” he told   Sport.

“Since I don’t have an A-League team and I play these games from week to week, there is a group of players there who are really excited to be putting on the Chiefs jersey.

“We’ve attacked this competition in the past so it’s really exciting. The players and coaching staff and the club are really looking forward to it.”

Sam MaunderFormer England U-20 scrum half Sam Maunder has only played three times for Exeter since the Covid-19 outbreak

Many of the players who will play for Exeter against Bristol on Saturday are loaned to clubs like Cornish Pirates, Plymouth Albion and Taunton in the Championship or National One.

Scrum half Sam Maunder, younger brother of Exeters England nine Jack, is one of the Exeter players hoping to make a difference after signing English rugby third division this season in nearby Taunton.

And he said the lack of playing opportunities outside of the first team since the Covid-19 lockdown had affected him.

“It’s been a really tough time,” the 21-year-old told   Sport.

“You come back from the lockdown and get the excitement of playing rugby again, but then you hear murmurs that the A League is not coming back and the Premiership Cup is not being played.

“It feels like they’ve missed a trick when young English players haven’t played for two years.

“For us we were fortunate to have some pretty busy academy coaches who checked you day in and day out and set goals so that you didn’t waste two years of your time but developed along the way.”

Exeter begins its Premiership Rugby Cup campaign on Saturday at home against Bristol ahead of the pool games with Gloucester, Bath and Worcester.

The three pool winners and the best runner-up will contest the semi-finals in  -ril before the final in May.

Sale are the defending champions after beat Harlequins in the 2019-20 delayed final last September.

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