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Exeter Chiefs lock Damian Welch is excited to clash with old foes

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 14, 2012

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Exeter Chiefs lock Damian Welch is looking forward to coming up against some familiar foes when the Ospreys visit Sandy Park in the LV= Cup on Saturday (5pm).

The 30-year-old joined Exeter in the summer after three seasons with the Ospreys' arch-rivals, Scarlets, for whom he made 60 first-team appearances.

RaboDirect PRO12 outfit Ospreys also got their LV= Cup campaign off to a winning start with a 33-27 victory over Aviva Premiership side Gloucester at Swansea's Liberty Stadium last Friday night, after scoring a last-gasp converted try.

"I know a few of the Ospreys boys, and have played against them several times before, so it should be interesting," said Welch, who has also featured for Cardiff Blues and Pontypridd in the past.

"They are another club with a good Academy system, especially with the backs they have got.

"A Welsh team wants to beat an English team, no matter who they're playing against, so that's an extra incentive for them on Saturday.

"We know they're going to be a good test for us and we're all looking forward to it.

"Hopefully we can turn in another decent performance, and build on a few of the things we started laying down against London Welsh last Sunday, and that will be good for us moving in the right direction."

Welch made his first start for Exeter against the Exiles since switching to Sandy Park, and he helped a young Chiefs side to a superb 42-15 victory over a team who were not too far off full-strength.

Last weekend's match appeared a daunting prospect on paper, when looking at the respective line-ups, but Welch said seeing Welsh name such a strong side had pleased the Exeter players.

"It might sound like a bit of a soundbite to say we were hoping for their toughest team, but I think we genuinely were," he explained.

"There were a few guys in our side trying to hold their hands up for first-team selection, and the last thing they wanted was to play against a team people might perceive as a weakened team.

"The best thing for all of us was to come up against one of their strongest sides. It gave the boys a chance to show what they could do, and also test themselves, especially the youngsters, against some quality Premiership opposition.

"It was good to get a win, especially with the make-up of our side. What made it so enjoyable was the fact there were so many of the young guys who came through and really stood up.

"It was pretty unexpected to score six tries. I thought it was going to be a close, tight game.

"It was a tough match, but the boys showed their quality, especially in the backs when it came to the try-scoring, and it was a very pleasing result."

The form of skipper Tom Hayes, James Hanks, Aly Muldowney and Dean Mumm in the second row has limited Reading-born Welch to nothing more than an appearance as a replacement against Clermont Auvergne at first-team level prior to last Sunday's trip to Oxford's Kassam Stadium.

He is now hoping to make a good enough impression to come into contention for selection when the Chiefs face back-to-back Heineken Cup matches against his former club, Scarlets, next month.

"I would be lying if I said I didn't have one eye on those games," said the 6ft 6in forward. "That's one of the targets I set for myself before the season started, and it's definitely one that is becoming a bit clearer now.

"I was made aware when I first came to Exeter that I was going to have to be patient, bearing in mind the boys had done really well last year by finishing fifth, and also playing the rugby they are playing," he added.

"In some ways I have been unfortunate this season that the guys in my position have been playing well and putting their hands up for the shirt, week in and week out.

"It is just a case of being patient, and, when you do get the opportunity to play, as I have with these LV= Cup games, you've just got to do your hardest to keep the shirt," Welch concluded.

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