Nowell's raring to go again

Jack Nowell says he's aiming to make up for lost time by helping to play a lead role in Exeter's Aviva Premiership title defence.

The Chiefs, England and British Lions winger marked his return to competitive action for the first time in six weeks when he scored a second half brace in last Sunday's 46-10 victory over Gloucester at Sandy Park.

That win - Exeter's 14th in 19 league starts this term - ensured Rob Baxter's side became the first team this season to ensure their place in next month's end of season play-offs, even though there are still three rounds of the regular season to play.

For Nowell, though, just being out on the pitch and doing what he loves best was the real reason he was all smiles at the final whistle.

"I'm just so glad to be back," said the Cornishman, who was introduced much earlier than he thought against the Cherry & Whites when he replaced Sam Hill during the first half. "I've worked hard to get back out with the boys. It's been tough watching and seeing the boys enjoying themselves, but they've been playing well and it makes it easier for someone like me to come back in when it's like that."

In what has been a so far stop-start season for the 25-year-old due to injuries, Nowell insists he's in fine fettle as the Chiefs look to back up their Premiership success of 12 months ago.

"I've had a bit of a bad run in terms of injuries, but that's also part and parcel of playing," he added. "You have spells like that in your career, but now I'm fit again and I'm desperate to get back out on the pitch.

"We're in a very good position as a squad right now, so a lot of credit has to go to the coaches, as well as the players. We've also had the taste of success last year and now we want to do it all over again.

"In some ways it's made it a bit easier for us because we know what to expect, but at the same time it's a new season and no one is just going to lie down and give the title to us. We know we have to go out there and get it ourselves. At the moment we're moving on the right line, but we know we have some big tests to come between now and the end of the season."

First up for the Chiefs will be Sunday's trip to basement club London Irish, whose handsome victory at Harlequins last time out has given the Exiles renewed hope that they could yet preserve their Premiership status.

Nowell hopes to be part of the travelling party for the clash at the Madjeski Stadium (3pm), but knows the competition for places across the Chiefs squad is huge with just a handful of games remaining.

"Every plyer wants to be playing and I'm no different," he continued. "Since the last injury I've been counting the weeks down to when I could come back and I've probably been a right pain in the arse for the coaches and the physios. Having had the rest, my body feels good and hopefully I can just kick on from here."