Dennis finds some Premiership luck in Exeter

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Exeter lock Dave Dennis feels luck is finally starting to turn his way on-field.

The Chiefs will play in their second consecutive Premiership final, this one against Wasps, as they search for their first title.

Dennis has been here before - he was Waratahs skipper in 2014 as they worked their way to a maiden title, but this time it’s different.

In 2014, Dennis was cruelly struck down by a season-ending knee injury, that robbed him of the chance to run out with his NSW teammates.

Then, he says, the feeling was bittersweet, but now it’s one he looks back on with the bigger picture in mind.

Dave Dennis and Michael Hooper lift the 2014 Super Rugby trophy. Photo: Getty Images“I think rugby's given me so much, so in 2014 I was very disappointed and I probably felt sorry for myself a bit,” he said.

“But swings and roundabouts - these things happen in sport.

“I  was fortunate enough to continue on after 2014 anyway and this is a great opportunity, probably a little bit of faith and luck coming back to me after 2014.”

“At the time, I was extremely disappointed to miss out on the actual final but in hindsight looking back that was a wonderful year and we experienced a lot of great things as a team in 2014 and achieved something very special in the first ever title at the club.

“Hopefully I'll be up when that whistle goes at 80 minutes to celebrate with the boys rather than on the sidelines.

This Saturday, he’ll have no such problems, a regular starter in the Chiefs’ second row, with a second crack at a win.

Dave Dennis celebrates after Exeter beat Saracens in their Premiership semi-final. Photo: Getty ImagesThe match will round up more than a year of rugby for Dennis, who has effectively been playing since Super Rugby’s February start in 2016 up until now, no mean feat at 31.

“I've probably surprised myself in a sense that I did finish the Super season, come over here and think ,' Wow I've got 20-30 games ahead of me, how am I going to manage this?’,” he said.

“The size of the squad - Rob's (Exeter coach Rob Baxter) understood there’s times when you need a bit of rest.

“Rather than Super Rugby - which is  very much the same guys playing every week somewhat and you're sort of in and out and the season's done.”

While Dennis will run out at Twickenham, his former Waratahs teammate and Wasps weapon Kurtley Beale has been ruled out with a hamstring injury.

Dave Dennis and Kurtley Beale at their final Waratahs home games in 2016. Photo: Getty ImagesBeale is a player Dennis describes as the ‘link man’ for the Coventry side, his praise a sign of what this season’s leaders will miss on Saturday, even with a star-studded lineup.

“I think if you look at the game this year, the way they've been playing, whether he's been at 12 or 15, he tends to be the link between all those attacking players,” he said.

“When you look at teams in terms of previewing teams in what the threat's going to be, you can only do a certain amount with Kurtley - you can look at the way he runs or kicks or whatever but there's going to be moments in games when he's going to put you under pressure through his natural ability.

“That's a great thing to have in a team and they've really fed on that.”

Exeter take on Wasps on Saturday night, kicking off at 11:30pm AEST.