Former England star Olly Barkley said Exeter Chiefs fans’ favourite Gareth Steenson should be ‘very proud’ of his achievements with the club.

Olly will be among a Classic Lions squad who will be visiting Sandy Park for a special testimonial game.

The Lions will be taking on many of the players who served in the Exeter Chiefs promotion-winning team during the fundraiser on August 12.

Among the former Chiefs players who have agreed to turn out on the day are Richie Baxter, Brett Sturgess, Tommy Hayes and Chris Budgen.

Gloucester legend Mike Tindall has been confirmed in the Lions squad. Commenting on the Chiefs’ rise from relegation favourites to Premiership champions, Olly said: “It’s quite a special and unique story. Rob Baxter has created an environment in which people don’t want to leave and that means you set up a culture and a core which carries through to the younger players. Gareth has played a central role in that. “Building that solid platform has been key for the Chiefs in terms of their growth and I think he should be very proud when he sits at home and reflects upon what the Exeter Chiefs have achieved.”

Olly has played for Gloucester, Bath, Scarlets and London Welsh during his career and also played at Number 10 for England.

He said that being a kicker put a huge physical strain on the body and that Steeno had shown a very special kind of discipline to stay at the top of of his game for so long. Olly explained: “Your groin takes a battering, your ankles take a battering and Gareth has obviously looked after himself to consistently perform in that channel. He has been resilient and robust and all those things that lend themselves to longevity.”

Olly said the Lions squad were looking forward to what will be a unique game. He added: “It’s nice to turn out for a guy who has achieved so much and it’s great that so many guys have given up their weekend and their time to come down and support Steeno and to celebrate all he has done throughout his career.”

Steenson played a massive part in the final leg of the 2009-10 Championship final against Bristol Rugby, scoring 24 points, helping Exeter Chiefs win 29-10.

He narrowly missed out on the golden boot by one point to  Premiership rival Freddie Burns at the 2012/13 Aviva Premiership awards  however, he took the title in the 2016 Aviva premiership awards.

Tickets are available via the Exeter Chiefs (www.exeterchiefs.co.uk)

[First published in the Herald Express, 28 June 2017]