Exeter’s England star Luke Cowan-Dickie concludes his chat with Andrew Clayton regarding his journey to the top.
At club level, last weekend marked a milestone in Exeter Chiefs’ history. A decade ago, the Devon outfit clinched the Championship title to earn a place in the Premiership and kick off a legacy. Among the new faces brought in for Chiefs’ maiden bow was a teenage Cowan-Dickie, but he is no longer a fresh-faced forward, and neither are Exeter still the new boys.
However, with no European silverware to show and, most frustratingly, one Premiership title from four finals, the hooker is the first to admit that there is still room for improvement.
“At first, coming up to the Prem, we always classed ourselves as underdogs and as a team you thrive off that,” he continued. “Obviously, we stayed up and we’re still there now. As the years went on, the team itself changed and the culture changed – we had to become more professional and everyone just went up a level. That’s when we hit the nail on the head and we started being the guys that teams want to beat.
“We knew that and we thrived off of that then. The mindset has definitely changed, the boys were ecstatic in getting to our first play-off final. Then we got into another three finals after that and won one. Not winning the other three is a bit of a bummer, but we’ve been in the final consecutively for four years and it’s where we want to be and we keep striving to go forward each year.
“We’re definitely good enough to play in Europe, I don’t know what it is – it’s just every year we end up not performing. There’s been games in the past where we’ve been up by ten, 14 points and we’ve thrown the game away.
“Domestically, we don’t normally do that. I think there’s been a lot of learning curves for us, and this year you’ve definitely seen that we’ve learned from our mistakes and matured as a side in this competition, and now we’ve got a home quarter. Let’s hope this is the step in the right direction for us in this competition and we have many more to come.
“We’re a club now that he could go out and sign a majority of players, but Rob [Baxter] doesn’t always look at big names. A few of our signings have been guys who maybe didn’t have a name for themselves, but Rob knows they’re going to be hard workers, they’re good blokes and will fit into the Chiefs mould.
Despite being at the top of the tree, Cowan-Dickie has not forgotten his roots, having come through the juniors with his brother, Tom, at Cornish Pirates.
With his presence at the World Cup, Luke joins a long list of Cornishmen who have enjoyed success on the domestic and the international stage.
Although the ongoing pandemic has put proceedings on pause, such as the construction of the Pirates’ Stadium for Cornwall, Cowan-Dickie predicts more to come from Duchy.
“If they get the Stadium for Cornwall up and built, and the Pirates have that genuine aspiration of playing in the Premiership, they would be able to hold onto any player they want to,” he said.
“Cornwall is a great place to live. A big factor why so many players come down to Devon from up country is because they like the way of living down there, and Cornwall has that and more. If promotion is the Pirates’ goal, and they have the stadium up, they’ll have players wanting to come down.”