Wyatt out to make most of his big chance
Exeter Chief young Gun Tom Wyatt, talks to the Rugby Paper’s Neale Harvey about his rise via the club’s Outreach Programme
Competing with Stuart Hogg for a place is nobody’s idea of a picnic but try telling budding Exeter full-back Tom Wyatt he is wasting his time going head-to-head with a Test superstar.
A National League Two South winner with loan club Taunton this season, 20-year-old Wyatt is one of those rare individuals who found their way to a Premiership side via unconventional means.
Coached at Taunton School by former Exeter flyer Nic Sestaret, Wiveliscombe-bred Wyatt played in the juniors at Minehead RFC before playing Level 8 rugby for North Petherton at 18.
His big break came when, at Sestaret’s behest, he was invited to play in representative games as part of Exeter’s outreach programme, after which he was snapped-up by Chiefs in 2019.
Wyatt explained: “Nic pushed me with my rugby at Taunton School and if it hadn’t been for him, I probably wouldn’t be at Exeter now. He was the one who steered me along and he gave me a lot of encouragement after I joined North Petherton, where he played as well.
“When I was 16, I nearly found my way into Bath’s set-up. Nothing came of that, but Exeter’s outreach programme is really good because it gives you a bit of a door into pro rugby.
“It’s basically an invitational side for guys from local clubs and although it’s a bit daunting when you’re chucked in with a load of lads you don’t really know, as soon as you’re out on the pitch you just crack on with it and I was lucky enough to play in a few of those games.
“We played against Cornwall and the Army and Exeter gave me a couple of run-outs in their Braves side as well, after which they offered me a contract. I’ve been training full-time with the Chiefs first team this season whilst playing for Taunton, so it’s gone really well.”
So well, in fact, that Wyatt played in three Premiership Cup games and is now eyeing a senior Premiership debut as he applies heat to Hogg and a few other Exeter stars.
He has versatility as an ally, explaining: “I played fly-half in my early days at school and then became a centre by trade before going to Chiefs. Once I got there, Ali Hepher asked me how I felt about going to full-back, so it’s good to be able to play in more than one position.
“I see my self competing for full-back and centre now and we’ve got some top blokes like Stuart and Henry Slade who are always looking to help you rather than do you down. There’s plenty of inspiration from those guys and someone like Stuart could talk to you for hours.
“I’m learning heaps from them in terms of skills and game understanding around Exeter’s patterns of play. I’m also gaining the confidence you need to boss guys around and after playing in the Premiership Cup, my big target now is a full Premiership debut.”