Chiefs sign Leinster duo


By Mark Stevens

Exeter Chiefs have bolstered their ranks for the 2022/23 season with the double signing of Leinster Rugby duo, Jack Dunne and Rory O’Loughlin.

Chiefs Director of Rugby Rob Baxter has moved swiftly to secure the services of the two Irishmen, both of whom are relishing the opportunity of featuring for the first time in the Gallagher Premiership.

It’s Baxter first moves in terms of squad strengthening for next season, but they are certainly significant captures for the Devon club.

Second-row Dunne, who stands at 6ft 8in and tips the scales at 120kg, is an Irish Under-20s international who has come through the Academy system at Leinster. Schooled initially at St Michael’s College, the imposing forward then moved onto Trinity College in Dublin, where he combined his rugby career with that of a four-year degree in Theoretical Physics.

He made his Leinster debut back in 2019 against Zebre in the Pro 14, but a significant knee injury and Covid restrictions have meant that game time has been limited until recent times. Now fully-fit, Dunne - who is English qualified - is looking to play his part for the Irish province before heading to Sandy Park next season.

Joining him at the Chiefs will be club-mate O’Loughlin, who is another who has played through the age grades at Leinster, making his first-team debut back in 2016 against Benetton Treviso. Since then, the gifted centre has amassed almost 100 appearances for the club, scoring 21 tries in the process.

A key figure in the Leinster midfield for a number of years, the Irish international has helped the club to lift four domestic league titles, as well as the Heineken Champions Cup in 2018 against Racing 92.

Understandably, Baxter is delighted to welcome both players to the Chiefs, saying: “People will be aware that we have lost a few players for next season, so we’ve been into the market and we’ve moved very quickly to get Jack and Rory on board.

“Jack, as soon as I looked at clips of him impressed me a lot. He’s a big guy, but he’s a big guy who can really move. He’s young, the right age, and everything I saw in the clips I liked. Meeting him here at Sandy Park doing his medical was good. He has had a relatively significant injury in recent times, so if people have been looking to him playing over the last 12 months, he’s not had a huge amount of game time. That said, he’s back now and playing for Leinster, so he coming through things.

“Personally, I can only see an upward performance curve in him. With game time, genuine input and probably a little bit more opportunity to play than he did at Leinster, who have got an awful lot of very good second rows, I think it fits for both sides. We have a slot there, Jack is looking to play more rugby, he’s EQP, which obviously helps us and creates opportunities for him here in England as well, so the package has been great and hopefully he is someone who will play a lot of rugby for us.”

Baxter added: “Rory is slightly different. He’s an older guy, but with bags of experience having come through all the levels at Leinster, right up to winning a Heineken Cup with them. That’s the kind of guy we are probably looking for in our back line. He’s is someone who can add genuine communication, a bit of talk, a bit of heads-up and can see space a little bit, understand where we are, alongside being a very good rugby player.

“We’re kind of looking for different things from the two players, but we believe we have got that with these two guys. They have got good experience, come from a very good environment, where they have been part of a high performing team and training unit, so they tick a lot of boxes for us.

“We have played against Leinster numerous times and you can see the success they have had in both their domestic competition, as well as in Europe. These guys have been in that environment for a long time and they will have learnt a lot, so we’re hopeful we can learn from them and that we can teach them something. Having a combination of the two like that, it should be very successful.”

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