Exeter Chiefs and England wing Jack Nowell said it was “awesome” to be back playing again after recovering from a quad injury.
Nowell marked his return to competitive action in Exeter Braves’ A League win over Bath United.
The 23-year-old featured for 50 minutes at Sandy Park as the Exeter Braves powered to a seven-try victory over their local rivals.
Although Nowell was not on the scoresheet, the sight of him back out in Exeter colours proved a huge positive for watching head coach Rob Baxter, who has only been able to utilise the talented back once this season because of injuries.
Nowell said: “It was awesome to be back out there with the boys and playing again at Sandy Park. I was a bit rusty, it’s my first start in over 24 weeks, but I did say to myself that I wasn’t going to try too hard out there.
“After any injury it’s always good to get out there and start playing, so hopefully I can just kick on from here and try and force my way back into the team.”
The winger was one of seven full internationals named in a strong Braves line-up and underlined the strength of the current Chiefs squad, now that a number of players had returned from injury and Test Match duty with their respective countries.
“Boys were only talking about it today and how strong the squad is,” added Nowell.
“We had a few boys coming back from injury, like myself, others looking to get game time and others who are just back from the Autumn internationals, so it was a good performance from everyone.”
Exeter’s win had lifted them to third in the current A League standings, just two points behind leaders Bristol, who they face later this month on December 19.
“We needed that bonus point win tonight as it has helped lift us up the table. Now we’ve just got to push on again. We won this competition last year and it will be nice if we could do it again this season.”
For Nowell, though, the most important positive of his night was just getting back onto the pitch, particularly after a frustrating, injury-hit campaign so far.
“It’s been a long time in the gym, not really seeing much daylight,” added Nowell. “My aim now is just trying to get back in the first team here at Exeter. We have had three awesome performances in the Premiership, so I know it’s not going to be easy.
“We’re now coming into this next block of European games, so the first thing I am thinking about this week is training well and see if I can myself in the mix for the weekend.
“The body feels good, but I’m not sure my lungs feel the same. That said, there is no such thing as getting match-fit when you’re in the gym. You can do as much watt bike and running on the field as you like, but it doesn’t compare to 80 minutes out on the pitch and that’s where I need to get to.”