Hardwick on trial at Chiefs
By Mark Stevens
Exeter Chiefs Director of Rugby Rob Baxter has confirmed former Leicester Tigers back Tom Hardwick is currently on trial with the Gallagher Premiership club.
Baxter was asked what the current situation surrounding the 23-year-old at his weekly media briefing after it was confirmed last week that the player had been registered in the Sandy Park club's additional players for the Heineken Champions Cup, which recommences next week with a double-header against Munster.
Hardwick left the Tigers a little over a year ago with immediate effect and later signed for third-tier French side Alibi before that deal officially came to an end earlier this month.
"I'll be very upfront about it, because these are the same conversations I've had with Tom," said the Exeter boss. "Jack Walsh is leaving next season. He has picked up an improved contract in Wales which will be great for him, so that opened up a slot for us. We've been looking at various options there and we're still looking at a lot of options, we haven't settled on Tom.
"Tom is just here on a trial basis, but obviously when we brought him here on a trial basis, registrations for the Premiership end pretty soon, so we got him registered with us, in case an opportunity came to play, so he could be registered for us. The European second registration deadline has just come up so we thought we may as well get him registered for Europe. So he is here on trial."
Hardwick's exit from Tigers in March 2021 was delivered in a 45-word, three-sentence media release as unconfirmed reports elsewhere suggested his time at Welford Road ended in acrimonious circumstances.
Baxter added: "It's an opportunity for him to come and get back on with some training, we can see how he fits in, we can assess where he fits in character-wise. Obviously, I am not going to sit here and go I am not aware there were some issues as he left Leicester, I was no different to anyone seeing the headlines that everyone else would've seen. So we want to assess him and see how he goes. That's what it is, it's an opportunity for him."
Discussing the length of the trial period, Baxter continued: "I've had a chat with Tom, I think he is settling in pretty well. Initially, we said shall we have a look at a couple of weeks to see how things go. I had a chat with him a couple of days ago. I said let's keep it open-ended, let's see how things go and we will take it day by day, week by week. He is very aware of that and he understands the scenario."