Gabby Cantorna excited for Exeter Chiefs youthful future

Gabby Cantorna and Jack Lewis - Exeter Chiefs

By Tom Harle, Sportsbeat

Centre Gabby Cantorna returned from the Rugby World Cup to find a group of young Exeter Chiefs players blossoming just in time for the start of the Allianz Premier 15s season.

The sixth season of Allianz Premier15s kicks off hot on the heels of a record-breaking World Cup, with the first round of fixtures this weekend. Exeter Chiefs play Gloucester-Hartpury in their first round game which will be streamed live on Premier15s.com

While Cantorna was leading USA to the quarter-final stage in New Zealand, Chiefs’ young talent were reaping the rewards of game time in the early rounds of the Allianz Cup.

“The girls seem really energised, eager and ready to go,” said the 27-year-old.

“The period away seems to have been beneficial for the younger players. A lot of them have grown a lot in the time since I’ve last seen them and I've only been back for one training session.

"They've shown a step up in their leadership. The people in the playmaking positions have come into their own and that can only strengthen the team as a whole.”

Cantorna namechecked 20-year-old Nancy McGillivray as one to watch and now offering her competition for a place in the Chiefs’ backline.

“Nancy has so much talent and promise,” she said.

“It makes me happy because it’s important that you have multiple people who are capable in each position.

“I want to help Nancy become the best player she can be and seeing her grow has just been so amazing for me personally.

“I love having that competition. That’s what makes me better and that’s why I wanted to come over to this league in the first place, to have strong competition for places, because that’s where I thrive.”

2022 saw record attendances in Allianz Premier15s home games, the most competitive Premier15s season to date, unprecedented player talent depth and England announced as the hosts of the 2025 World Cup.

The BBC will cover one game in each round of fixtures with two streamed, with Chiefs’ season opener against Gloucester-Hartpury at Sandy Park set to be broadcast live.

Chiefs took the league by storm last season to reach the final for the first time, with Cantorna confident they can go one step further this term.

“We want to be in the final again and we would like to win it this time,” she said. “That’s always what we’re pushing for.

“We want to play the long game and make sure we’re in that top four, picking up the losing bonus points we need. We know there is a bit more expectation on us now.”

Allianz Premier 15s - the elite women’s rugby competition in England. @Premier15s