Exeter back-rower Thomas Waldrom ruled out of Aviva Premiership final
Thomas Waldrom will miss Exeter's Aviva Premiership final clash with Saracens after being ruled out for 12 weeks with a knee ligament injury.
The 33-year-old England back-rower suffered damage to his medial ligament in the closing stages of Saturday's 34-23 league semi-final victory over Wasps.
Exeter will face Premiership title holders and Champions Cup winners Saracens in their maiden league final at Twickenham on Saturday, with 28 coachloads of fans making the journey to London.
Flanker Don Armand admitted four-cap England back-rower Waldrom has been "really upset" by the injury blow, but vowed Exeter will now bid to lift the title in his honour.
"It's really horrible for someone like 'Tank' especially, who puts so much time and emotion into the team and you can see that by the way he plays," said Exeter flanker Armand.
"We're definitely going to miss him. He's been really upset this week and that just shows what the team means to him.
"There are definitely boys playing for him, as extra emotion and motivation.
"There are plenty of motivations already of course, but that certainly adds to it, and it's quite high up on the priorities.
"No one wants to miss the big occasion, that's what everyone works towards.
"But that's just rugby unfortunately, that's just how the game works."
Exeter's distress at losing power runner and try machine Waldrom was at least tempered by scrum-half Will Chudley being cleared to play on Saturday.
The Chiefs will doubtless miss former Leicester star Waldrom, who has racked up 12 Premiership tries this season. But Chudley's availability proves a real boost, after a citing charge against him was dismissed.
Chudley faced a Rugby Football Union (RFU) disciplinary hearing in Bristol for alleged reckless use of the boot in kicking Wasps lock Joe Launchbury during Saturday's Premiership semi-final.
The panel found Chudley's knee was deflected off Wasps prop Matt Mullan.
The relieved Exeter head coach Rob Baxter hailed Wasps' candour in insisting Chudley's actions carried no ill intent. Baxter also revealed a previously-unseen camera angle of the incident helped exonerate his scrum-half.
"The incident was seen by the television match official, and although that wasn't put down by the citing commissioner, it was seen, it was looked at in detail by the TMO who decided in his opinion it was accidental contact and didn't feel he should bring it to the referee's attention," said Baxter.
"There was an angle that wasn't shown on TV, that does show pretty clearly that the ball is available for Will to play, it was open, it was quite fair for him to have a play of the ball.
"And his leg does receive a pretty big deflection off Matt Mullan's knee and thigh as he puts his foot in, which brushes it against Joe's head.
"And Wasps' officials and management after the game were great: they didn't think it was a particularly bad incident, and they were prepared to report that after the game and to the disciplinary panel.
"And Joe Launchbury himself put in a very positive statement in support of Will that he didn't feel it was anything other than a very minor incident and didn't really think anything untoward had happened at the time either.
"Will Chudley, a guy who has never had a yellow card in his professional career and is one of the least penalised players in the Premiership, can play in the final. And I think everyone would agree that's a good result.
"To be fair to the whole process probably after what happened and the initial angle shown on TV, I can completely understand why the citing commissioner put it forward. And on that basis it was probably a correct citing.
"But now the result's happened it's important everyone understands what the process was.
"The process was very thorough, they obviously had different angles that weren't shown on TV and weren't discussed."