With the Rugby World Cup only a few weeks away, we spoke to Chris Bentley, former Exeter Chiefs player and Corporate Sales Executive at Sandy Park about his thoughts on the upcoming tournament.
INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS BENTLEY
Chalk & Ward (C&W): We’ll start with an easy one – Where do you see the Chiefs finishing this Season?
Chris Bentley (CB): Definitely in the top 4.
C&W: What did you do the moment Sandy Park was announced as a host city?
CB: I jumped for joy! I am immensely proud to be part of this.
C&W: How has Sandy Park been preparing for the World Cup?
CB: We’ve taken all of our ad boards down but everything else has been done by the RWC. We’ve had no other part in preparation.
C&W: The England Chiefs boys – how do you think they’ve done? What’s the buzz like amongst the other Chiefs players?
CB: They should all get into the squad – even Luke Cowan-Dickie has played well, it’s the lineouts he’s struggled with. And Henry Slade is pure class.
Update: Since this interview, unfortunately Luke didn’t make the squad.
C&W: In terms of the warm up matches in the build up to the World Cup, were you shocked at how poor England were in Paris or was it more about how well the French played?
CB: France have some big lads and our boys just couldn’t cope in Paris, but Twickenham will be a different story!
C&W: Given the limited number of places, do you think there is too much pressure put on the players to perform at their best all of the time?
CB: The media is hard on them, but they are professionals so they deal with it very well. I remember Michael Dart [of Darts Farm] saying to me ‘pressure is a privilege’ and he’s right. This is an amazing opportunity for the boys to have the pressure of playing against the greatest in their sport.
C&W: How has rugby changed in recent years and what’s been the most significant development do you think?
CB: There are more international players at club level now and more analysis on them – they’re constantly watched and critiqued. They’re also much more exuberant these days when they score a try; it didn’t used to be like that! Oh and there’s less booze!
C&W: And how much have the training techniques changed since you were a Chief?
CB: Their training sessions are much shorter and sharper – more professional. We used to train for hours and hours but now they do more high intensity training. It’s the same as a high performance engine – you wouldn’t take a Ferrari on a tour through France, you take it for a quick spin around the track!
C&W: Which World Cup match at Sandy Park are you most looking forward to?
CB: The Tonga v. Namibia game. The Tongans are huge blokes and the Sipi Tau, their pre-game war dance is always good to watch! They’re not expecting to win the Cup but they’re certainly out to make a statement. And as for Namibia, Jaques Burger is known for his seismic collisions so this is definitely a game to watch!
C&W: Who are your top three teams that could win the World Cup?
CB: New Zealand, England and Australia.
C&W: Do you think England can win the ‘group of death’?
CB: Whoever wins the group [Australia, England, Wales Fiji and Uraguay] will be in with an extremely good chance of winning the Cup. England could absolutely do it.
C&W: New Zealand and England aside, which other team could go all the way?
CB: Ireland are a dark horse. It’s worth keeping an eye on them this year!
COMPETITION HAS BEEN CLOSED