Everybody knows we have a big year ahead of us
After what he described himself as an 'amazing summer', Exeter Chiefs flyhalf Ignacio Mieres is already back into the swing of things at Sandy Park as he gears himself up for the new 2012/13 season.
Last season's top point-scorer jetted in from Buenos Aires just a week ago, but already the 25-year-old playmaker has been hard at work getting back into the routine as the Chiefs countdown the days to their Premiership opener against Sale Sharks on Saturday, September 1.
Mieres was in sublime form last season collecting 282 points for the Devon club in all competitions, but knows expectations of him - and that of his club - are sure to be raised following their fifth place finish in May.
Exeter's impressive second season in the top flight not only showed how Rob Baxter's side have coped with the demands of the Premiership, but it ensured them of their spot for the first time amongst the elite of European rugby in this season's Heineken Cup.
"Everybody knows we have a big year ahead of us," said Mieres. "We will have a little bit more pressure than last year and we know the Heineken Cup is the top tournament in Europe. That is why every day the guys are in here training hard because we know we have a lot of big challenges ahead of us."
The Chiefs have shown, however, that are more than capable of competing at the top end and Mieres knows that the current squad, plus the new additions added by Baxter this summer, will ensure they continue in a similar vein.
"I have been training hard back at home, but being back here is the best thing for me because you get in touch with the ball, you get to practice your skills and this is the time when you plan a lot," added Mieres. "Pre-season is great because it is the time when you learn the most and when you all come together.
"Yes it's good to have the new guys on board. Its new friends, new team-mates to make and I've met most of them this week and they all seem good guys. You can see already they have settled in well because they are training hard and are already part of the main group."
Mieres knows better than most how easy it is to settle amongst the ranks at Sandy Park and he says the team spirit that exists within the club has played a big part in their recent success story.
He remarked: "The people are very humble and very friendly here, you can see the guys are always with their arms open and happy to welcome new people in. Ever since I arrived in England I've loved being in Exeter. The way everybody works, the way they play, I just wanted to stay. Even when there was the talk last season of the Four Nations, all the time I said I wanted to stay here. That is why I talked with Rob so much and eventually we got an agreement on the new deal."
And although Mieres has his future secure at the Chiefs, the Argentine ace knows he can ill afford to let his standards slip, especially as Exeter have able back-up in the form of Gareth Steenson, Myles Dorrian and Henry Slade to fill the No.10 jersey.
"It's the same every year, everybody wants to play and I'm no different," he explains. "Last season was good for me, but now we all start at zero and it's up to all of us to go and show the coaches what we can do. Last year was a good season for me because I got to play over 30 matches and I got the game time I was looking for. This year, I want to stay there and be even better, but I know I will have to train and play well."
Mieres' form has certainly been noticed and during the close season he was back home representing his country in key Test matches against both Italy and France.
"The summer has been really good as I got to spend around nine weeks back home in Argentina," he says. "For me, it was just amazing because I've probably never had a holiday that long before, but at the same time I also got to play and train with the Pumas. As a player it's the biggest achievement you can have when you play for your country.
"I got the chance to play two matches (against Italy and France) and it was a great experience and I got to learn so much. Luckily we won both games and I played well enough. The French game, especially, was special because they had a great side out and nobody expected us to probably win that game.
"Also playing next to Felipe [Contepomi] was great because he is such a good player and I learnt a lot from him both inside and outside of the field. He is a legend back home and worldwide, so it was nice to play next to him and also Rodrigo Roncero."
Eagle-eyed Chiefs fans, however, will have noted that Mieres' trademark flowing locks were dispensed of following the Italian victory, so what was the reasoning behind his new look?
He explained: "It is tradition back home that when you play your first important Test match they shave your head, so after the Italy game I had my head done. It doesn't matter all that much for me because I know it will grow back, but it's just something we do."
Bald or with hair, the sight of Mieres back in Exeter is a welcome boost to the Chiefs as the new season approaches at pace.