THERE was much cause for satisfaction for Taunton Titans head coach Tony Yapp as he watched Exeter Chiefs win the Champions Cup this month.

Yapp was watching at home, and admitted to feeling the nerves as Racing 92 pushed the Chiefs close in the final 10 minutes.

Exeter held on, though, and have since added the Premiership crown to cap a brilliant season.

Yapp played for the Chiefs, of course, before taking over as Taunton head coach in 2011/12.

He takes pride in Exeter flying the flag for South West rugby across Europe, telling the County Gazette: “It’s created real excitement.

“Everyone knows that the South West is a hotbed for rugby, and we’ve seen how well Exeter have done in recent years, but it also creates more interest in the area, and you see that with the local clubs and on social media.

“It’s just a shame that we’re not able to play at the moment.”

Two members of the triumphant Exeter squad also have Taunton connections, being coached by Yapp at Hyde Park.

Yapp said: “Joe [Simmonds] came [in 2015/16] as an academy player, and while it would be hard to say at the time that he was destined for the top, he learned quickly and worked hard, and was a lovely lad, too - so you wished him success.

“To captain the side to a European trophy at his age is pretty extraordinary.

“Sam [Skinner] was not involved with the Exeter academy when he came to us [in 2013/14] - in fact he came to us as a bit of a last resort before going travelling.

“But through Chris Brown [forwards coach at Taunton] we pointed him in the direction of Exeter and Exeter University, and to see him grow from there has been great.”

Ben Moon also had a stint at Taunton, in 2007/08, having played with Yapp early on his career.

“They’ve all shown the value of hard work, and we’ve enjoyed working with them at Taunton,” Yapp added.

“It’s a good opportunity for players [to come to Taunton].

"In the past you would play for your local team, and if you did well enough you would get a move to a bigger club, but it’s different now.

“There are so many good academy players now, but they need the experience of playing.

“We have a good relationship with Exeter and good links through the likes of Julian Salvi and Keith Brooking.

“To give players the experience of playing National League rugby is something we enjoy, but we’re still our own club.

“We have to make sure we retain our own identity - and not become Exeter’s 2nd XV - so we look to add a sprinkling of Exeter players to what we already have at the club.”

Unfortunately Taunton are unable to play competitive fixtures until January 2021 at the earliest, owing to Covid-19 restrictions.

Yapp and his players are continuing to train, though, as he explained: “We are currently training one night a week, as we have since August, if only for the players’ sanity!

“We can’t use the showers or changing rooms at the club, but we can play touch rugby, a bit of football, running and just getting together as a team.

“We are having about 40 players turn up for each session, which is great to see.

“It’s still strange to have won promotion to National 1 and not have any real opportunity to celebrate that, so we look forward to that as well as playing again.”