New faces for next season
By Mark Stevens
Rob Baxter is set to welcome his biggest intake of academy youngsters into his Exeter Chiefs squad for the 2018/19 season.
A great advocate over the years of bringing through youthful, homegrown talent at Sandy Park, the Chiefs Director of Rugby is once again ready to reap the rewards of yet more outstanding work being carried out by the club’s highly successful academy programme.
Richard Capstick, Flynn Elworthy, Barrie Karea, James Kenny, Sam Maunder, James McRae, Sam Morley, Max Norey, Joe Parker-Cook, Alfie Petch, Joe Snow, Danny Southworth, Cory Teague and Rus Tuima have all agreed contracts with the reigning Premiership champions.
It’s yet another glowing endorsement for the time and effort being carried out by the Chiefs academy, which is headed up by Robin Cowling and Rob Gibson, two men who have already unearthed a glut of local talent who have moved into the senior ranks at the Devon club.
“This will be our biggest-ever intake of academy players into the senior squad,” explained Gibson. “Over the years we have been fortunate enough to bring through a number of players, many of whom have not only gone on to play regularly for the Chiefs in the Premiership and in Europe, but also at a higher level internationally.
“Obviously we have had a great buy-in from Rob and from [chief executive] Tony Rowe, both of whom can see the work we are doing within the academy and the calibre of players we are now able to put up for recruitment into the first team. Without their support, both on and off the field, then we would not be able to achieve the results that we have.
“That said, the players themselves must also take a great deal of credit for their commitment and drive to not only take on board what we are coaching them, but to be able to put themselves in the best position possible to try and achieve their aims of being a professional player here at the Chiefs.”
Certainly, the fruits of previous years have been there for all to see with 11 of last weekend’s match-day squad against Gloucester in the Aviva Premiership having come through the club’s academy programme.
“When we talk to these young players, we have real-life case studies that we can refer to,” added Cowling, who is the club’s Academy Manager. “Before the Chiefs got into the Premiership, these players would not have had the opportunities that they have now. What we have developed as a club is a clear and concise pathway for any youngster to come through the system and progress to the very top echelons of the modern-day game.”
Naturally, Baxter is delighted to have such talent available to him on his own door step through the club’s links with both Exeter and Truro Colleges, as well as that of the University of Exeter, whose tie-up with the Chiefs is developing year on year and had yielded stock such as Sam Skinner, Jack Owlett, Pete Laverick and Tom Lawday.
Now, McRae and Morley are the latest additions to that list, having impressed for the club this season both in the Anglo-Welsh Cup and A League competitions.
“I cannot speak highly enough about the work that is being carried out within our academy system,” said Baxter. “We have been very fortunate during our time in the Premiership to unearth some fantastic, local talent – many of whom have been able to not only establish themselves as key members within the first-team squad, but also go on to achieve even bigger things within the game.
“In every case, though, the player has to warrant us giving him a contract and being part of our senior group. I think what these players have shown to us as coaches is that they are willing to work hard every day – and that they want to improve every time they train and every time they play. If they do that, then I have no reason not to think they can be very successful in the future.”