EXETER Chiefs forwards coach Rob Hunter is full of praise for the excellent work new scrum coach Ross McMillan has done since arriving at the club in the summer.
The Chiefs pack has looked unrecognisable from last season, and it has provided the basis for the Exeter's excellent start to the campaign.
They have won two of their opening three games, including huge home victories over last season's Premiership finalists Saracens (65-10) and Sale Sharks (43-0), to lie second in the table behind Bath.
Hunter said: "Ross has come into the coaching team and absolutely transformed our scrum. That just allows you to do so much on the pitch because you have got that safety net that a knock-on or an error doesn't turn into a penalty.
"He has done an amazing job and the lads have really bought into it."
He revealed that McMillan, who is also an excellent singer, has to bake the forwards cakes this week after they won a penalty try from a scrum against the Sharks.
McMillan joined the Chiefs in July after London Irish went out of business. He had been with the Exiles since 2019 and the Chiefs had been very impressed with the work he had done there.
He lists Gloucester, Northampton Saints, Bristol Bears and Leicester Tigers among his former clubs, with the Chiefs facing the Bears at Sandy Park this Sunday (3pm).
Looking back on the superb victory over Sale, Hunter said: "We are over the moon. Sale are a very tough, physical side, especially in those conditions, and we rolled up our sleeves and really went at the game in a different way to what we did against Saracens two weeks ago, and we couldn’t be happier with that performance.
“All credit to the lads, they really focused on what they needed to do, and they are working very hard Monday to Friday to be a better team on the Friday than they are on the Monday, and the lads have really bought into that, and if you just keep it simple, and put all your effort into that, then it gives you an opportunity to be competitive, and we have done that very, very well.
“We have still got quite a bit of experience knocking about in the squad, albeit the difference between our most experienced player and our least experienced player is quite great, but I think this season has given a new lease of life to some of those older players, with different expectations, a different style of play, we have tweaked quite a few things, and for a group of coaches as well, it is incredibly refreshing and enjoyable to get in on a Monday morning and coach a group of lads who are just totally focused on working hard and getting better."
Exeter's defence throughout the game against Sharks was immense as they achieved their first shutout since 2014 against London Welsh.
"All credit to the guys and Omar (Mouneimne, defence coach). We were disappointed a little bit the week before against Harlequins, not in our defence because we worked very hard, but there were a couple of technical things and set-up things that we didn't quite get right, and you get that with a young team," explained Hunter.
"We made sure we got those right against Sale, and Omar has been pointing the guys in the right direction, and our energy to defend in and around our goal line and all the way up the pitch is fantastic, and there are guys in there like Ethan (Roots) just leading the way, and Greg (Fisilau) flying into their defensive work, and it is so enjoyable to be a part of."
Asked if the start to the season had been beyond their wildest dreams after coming through what looked like a very tough start with fixtures against Saracens, Harlequins and Sale with a much-changed squad from last season, Hunter said: "We looked at each week in pre-season and all we focused on was getting better each week, we focused on each Premiership Cup game individually, and being a better team, and that is what we are doing, and it sounds like a bit of a cliche, but it does make it super simple, and it takes a lot of pressure off the lads."