Reddan wary of level of excitement energised Exeter can generate
The Leinster scrumhalf tells JOHNNY WATTERSONwhy he is under no illusion of the threat the Exeter Chiefs will pose on Saturday night
WILEY TO the ways of the English Premiership, the former Wasps scrumhalf Eoin Reddan didn’t earn the first one of his Heineken Cup medals blissfully unaware of the challenges that come at every round.
Exeter Chiefs may be the new kids on the block but Reddan’s radar has picked up on the threat of a dangerous crew who can provide some shock and awe on their Dublin visit. The prospect of defeating the Premiership champions (Harlequins) followed by the Europe Champions on successive weekends would set any campaign on fire and the Leinster scrumhalf is already damping any inferences that the match could be something of a romp for the home side.
“I suppose they’ll have you believe that they’re not that good and they’re a bunch of lads coming together to come over and have a bit of craic,” he says cautiously. “Last year they were very close to the top four. They had a game against Northampton and whoever won it was going to be in the top four. It was a very tough game with massive intensity in the kind of setting and the kind of atmosphere that probably you might see next weekend.”
Hard-nosed coaches are what teams specialise in these days and with Joe Schmidt following the hardest nosed of them all, Michael Cheika, Leinster know what that can bring. Rob Baxter is causing ripples already with this Exeter side that has come from the British and Irish Cup through the Amlin Challenge and is now in with Europe’s elite. That is a crazy sort of momentum.
“They perform very well,” he says. “They’ve a hard-nosed coach who is very clever. You can tell from watching footage and by the opportunities they expose off teams. He’s obviously very smart, Rob Baxter and his personality comes through in the team.
“Add to that you’ve a few good players . . . obviously they’ve a good one to 15 but together they make up a real team. It’s a real challenge this week to know them inside out by Saturday.”
Another of the Exeter squad Reddan will also know is Tom Hayes, brother of former Irish prop John “The Bull” Hayes. Reddan has seen the secondrow up close when he wore Munster’s red. A similar personality to John, Tom flew Munster and has now taken up the captain’s role at Exeter. Like many leaders, his is by example alone.
“I played games with him at Munster, I think he was a big loss because he’s got great skills,” says Reddan. “He’s got a good work rate, good fitness, he’s tough – everything you want from a secondrow. I think he was a loss to Irish rugby, he’s been a bit under the radar because of the division he was playing in but he’s come straight up to the Premiership last year and kept going and performing and is doing the same this year.”
Similar in the way they go about business, Hayes junior may lack his older sibling’s profile but he is a name who the Leinster secondrowers will be aware of.
“I wouldn’t say he’s obviously a different personality. What’s good about the two of them, is that they’re both good lads, both honest lads and that comes through in their rugby,” says Reddan. “Whether Tom is a bit more outspoken or not they both have the same characteristics. Just because Tom is captain doesn’t mean he’s shouting and pulling jokes.”
Perish the thought of a Hayes family member doing that. Still there will be a frisson at the RDS.
“It’ll be tough to meet the level of the excitement they’re going to have,” adds Reddan.
“It’s their first game ever in the Heineken Cup and we all remember our first games in the Heineken Cup.”