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Samoan veteran just wants to play rugby

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 10, 2012

'I am just looking forward to getting out there and finally play some rugby' – Junior Poluleuligaga

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Junior Poluleuligaga has cut a frustrated figure in his wait for first-team rugby this season, and the Exeter Chiefs scrum-half cannot wait to run out for the LV= Cup clash with London Welsh tomorrow.

Poluleuligaga was set to join Cornish Pirates in a loan deal last month, but it fell through at the last minute, meaning the Samoan international has not featured in first-team action at all this season.

Poluleuligaga's chances have been limited at Sandy Park this term. Fellow scrum-half Will Chudley has made a positive impression since his arrival at the club in the summer, while Haydn Thomas has also returned from a recent hamstring injury.

However, the 31-year-old will not only start but captain the side in tomorrow's trip to Oxford's Kassam Stadium as one of the more senior players in an experimental Chiefs side packed with youthful talent and fringe players.

"I am excited because I haven't played for about a month and like everyone else in the team, I am just looking forward to getting out there and finally play some rugby," Poluleuligaga said.

"It is a great opportunity for everyone involved and especially for someone like me, who is full of experience, to help out the younger guys.

"I have young Sladey [Henry Slade] playing alongside me at ten, so hopefully he can learn a few things. It brings the best out of everyone, especially the younger ones. There are some older heads in the team as well, so there won't be anyone out there panicking out there. We all know our roles and we know what to do."

One thing Poluleuligaga wants to do is turn in a performance in front of the watching coaches to remind them of his qualities and be in their thoughts for more regular first-team action.

"The coaches talked at the beginning of the week about playing well because it's pretty hard to play well in these kind of games when not everyone knows their role and not everyone has played together," he said. "The guys that stand out and perform really well could put up their hand for selection for the top team. We all want to be involved in that top team and play really well this weekend."

For the majority of the Chiefs' side though, tomorrow's encounter will be the next stage in their development. Many have already represented Exeter Braves, the club's reserve side, but Poluleuligaga believes they will benefit from making the next step up to competitive first-team rugby.

"There is a lot of potential in the Academy and with the young guys coming through and it's great to see," he said. "Hopefully they can put in a really good performance to try to stake a claim for next year or the year after, but I think it will be a great learning experience for them.

"We have done our analysis, but I think the excitement, the energy and the hunger that the boys will bring means we will get a result. We are just looking forward to getting out there and playing rugby."

Exeter Chiefs: Nowell; Arnott, Sestaret, Dorrian, Foster; Slade, Poluleuligaga (capt); Moon, Clark, Budgen; Welch, Carrick-Smith; Conlon, Blanchet, Ewers. Replacements: Yeandle, L Cowan-Dickie, Tui, Gray, Simmonds, Coote, Hill, Pope.

London Welsh: Arscott; Voyce, Parker, Jewell, Scott, Gordon Ross, Runciman; Montanella, Briggs, Bateman, Mills (capt), Purdy, Browne, Denbee, Beach. Replacements: George, Bristow, Tideswell, Brown, Balding, Davies, Lewis, Ajuwa.

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