By Mark Stevens
Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter is predicting a bright future ahead for three of the club’s rising stars after they today agreed new deals with the Aviva Premiership club.
With Baxter busy sorting out new contracts for a number of his current first-team squad, the news that England Under-20s internationals Jack Nowell, Henry Slade and Sam Hill have all agreed two-year contracts to stay at Sandy Park is yet another welcome boost to the Exeter leader.
The talented trio, all of whom are part of the club’s highly successful Academy system, are just the latest in a line of players who have recently pledged their futures to the Devon club.
Full-back Nowell made his Aviva Premiership debut in the 27-23 win at London Irish last month, as well as starting in both the home victories over London Wasps (Premiership) and Scarlets (Heineken Cup).
Like the gifted Cornishman, fellow 19-year-olds Hill and Slade started both LV= Cup matches against London Welsh and the Ospreys, and have been backed to join Nowell in the first team in the not too distant future.
All three players, together with fellow academy young guns Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tom Cowan-Dickie Jack Arnott, Will Carrick-Smith and Lloyd Fairbrother, have doubled up life with the Chiefs by featuring in the Championship with either Plymouth Albion or the Cornish Pirates this season.
“We’re big believers in our academy system and the quality that’s coming through there,” said Baxter. “We’re also big believers in these guys as individuals. They’ve all shown good qualities over the last year or so, particularly in the Championship playing for Plymouth and the Cornish Pirates.
“It’s a really nice boost to know they’re around for the next couple of years and we can work closely with them to help them develop into Premiership players.
“We’re pretty certain all three of them have got what it takes. Jack has already played some Premiership rugby and we’re really pleased with how he’s gone. He’s also played Heineken Cup rugby, which is fantastic for a guy coming through your academy – to see them out there in the Heineken Cup is what it’s all about.
“We’re pretty sure Sam and Henry have got the attitude and ability to do that themselves. It’s great for a club to have quality guys who are recognised at England Under-20 level, playing well in the Championship and starting to really add something to our senior squad.
“They are probably the most enjoyable guys to sign on because they have been part of the club’s structure for a long time and they represent the future of the club.”