Former Chinnor flan-ker Tom Johnson will see his career come full circle tomorrow when he lines up for Exeter Chiefs against London Welsh at the Kassam
The 30-year-old England international took his first steps towards the top while playing for Chinnor as an Oxford Brookes University student.
After leaving Chinnor in 2004, Johnson played for Reading, Coventry and then Exeter with whom he won promotion to the Premiership and his first England cap against South Africa this summer.
Now coming to play in Oxford for the first time since his student days, Johnson is hoping for a happy return to the city.
“Welsh have been a bit hamstrung by circumstances over the summer, but I think they are going to be very, very tough,” said Johnson.
“I played against them for four or five years in the Championship and they were very good.
“I like London Welsh and hope they do well, but we are going to be going all out to beat them because we know we have to.”
Johnson played in the same Chinnor team as fellow flanker Dave Seymour, who is now the captain of Sale Sharks.
“I loved it,” he said. “I had a great time while I was at Oxford Brookes. It was a great bunch of boys and I had a lot of fun.
“Lyn Evans was very good to me and Matt Hutchings, who was also at Brookes.
“It has been quite a steady progression since then. I have worked my way up from there.”
Johnson is still in touch with Chinnor players Hutchings, Tom Whelan and James Cathcart plus Nick Graham at Oxford Harlequins.
“They are all coming along on Sunday, but they will probably be booing me!” he joked.
Although Johnson and his Exeter teammates will be going all out to beat Welsh tomorrow, he is delighted to see top-flight rugby in Oxford.
“I think it is brilliant,” said Johnson. “When I was in Oxford, it was crying out for a Premiership club.
“I think it is a great place to have it. I’m sure there will be a great atmosphere.”
Johnson was named in Stuart Lancaster’s 32-man England Elite Player Squad (EPS) for this season and so has a good chance of playing in the autumn internationals.
He said: “I would love to be involved, but I just want to keep playing week in, week out.
“I need to concentrate on that as the competition for places is fierce.”
Under head coach Rob Baxter, Exeter have made huge strides and showed their intent by signing Australian international lock Dean Mumm.
London Welsh will be hard pushed to stop Johnson and his teammates.