Luke Cowan-Dickie says 'no talent' culture vital to Exeter Chiefs set-up
Exeter Chiefs and England hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie talks Exeter's Champions Cup and Premiership success in 2020; "You can have as much talent in the world, but we have a system which most of us stick to."
By Sky Sports Rugby Union
Last Updated: 17/12/20 11:40am
Exeter Chiefs hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie tells Sky Sports Rugby that a 'no talent' culture is crucial to the success of the reigning Champions Cup and Premiership champions...
Speaking as a guest on the latest episode of the Will Greenwood Podcast, the 27-year-old England international discussed the way Exeter play the game, the way the squad operates and the ethos which has seen the club transition from the English second Tier to European champions in a decade.
"We work hard. We always pride ourselves on no talent," Cowan-Dickie says.
"All the young boys and new boys that come into the side, they're constantly asking questions to the guys that have been here for years or the coaches.
"There's a will from everyone to want to learn.
"We're a side now that does win a lot of games, which is lovely. At the start, we weren't winning so much, but now it's changed.
"Guys are coming, internationals are coming who haven't played in our team before just want to learn new things.
"That's the main part of it: Everyone gets our system really well.
"Like I said, we pride ourselves on no talent. You can have as much talent in the world, but we have a system which most of us stick to.
"Boys know where they fit in our system, and a system only works if the individuals do their job and I think the boys understand that and it works really well."
Having been promoted from the Championship to the Premiership in 2010, Exeter have gone from strength to strength and between 2015 and 2020, they reached five Premiership finals in succession.
Two of those domestic finals resulted in trophies (2017, 2020), three in defeats to now-relegated Saracens on each occasion (2016, 2018, 2019). In Europe, they had never reached a semi-final until last season, where they went on to beat Racing 92 in a stunning final.
How would Cowan-Dickie describe the way Exeter play the game?
"Hard work," he says. "The kick chase, the kick sprint, when they've got the ball just keep working hard.
"We try to wear sides down and probably in the last 10 minutes of the first half and last 20 minutes of the game, we know we've got the fitness and the drive to keep going and hunting guys.
"I don't know if we're the fittest team in the Premiership, we're definitely up there, but I'd just say it's our no talent - which is our work-rate, our drive just to really put in some graft.
"There's times where you feel dark in a game and you're absolutely pooped, but you know the guy next to you is going to keep going, and it drives you forward.
"We might not be the fittest but we definitely work to our limits."
Central to Exeter's performances and victories over the last few seasons has been the clinical nature of their attacks once in the opposition 22.
Cowan-Dickie, who started quick-tapping five-metre penalties last season too, admits the Chiefs focus their whole game on getting to five metres out.
"Obviously, our lineout maul is quite good so if we get a lineout five metres out, we drive to score. We do put a lot of time into our driving maul and maul defence, which is working quite well.
"Our main aim really is to get to five metres out and then the forwards take over with pick-and-go.
"If the backs want it, they'll call for it, but it will mainly be stuck in with the forwards. We know we can grind a team down.
"The way we set up manipulates defences to a certain extent. There's only so much you can do, but it seems to be working for us.
"The main aim is carry on playing on the front foot, get to the five-metre line and then as soon as we're there, we just go into machine mood. Everyone has their roles."
"If we've got a penalty on the five-metre line, we will tap-and-go and go to score.
"We had a chat about it, and the plan is hooker on the ball if we're there.
"Our conversion rate when we do pick-and-go is high so it's not really a thought of if we would miss or win the lineout, it's more that you can get a metre or two metres out with a quick-tap, and as you can see it's worked quite a bit with scoring from straight taps.
"We normally score after the tap has happened.
"Mainly people are moaning because it's obviously not the type of game-play that's the most fun, but we always manage to get over the line, as people can't defend it."
Were Cowan-Dickie and the Chiefs defence to face a similar proposition to themselves five metres out, how would they stop it?
"I don't really know. I think you've got to just toughen up.
"When your five metres out and people are going for your line, you just try to disrupt it as much as possible, and find ways you can break it down and break the momentum down.
"We're quite lucky we've got a few guys good over the ball, we've done alright in that area."