TOP BAR - Fixtures

Baxter likes what he sees in new prop

As he has proved for a number of years now, Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter isn’t afraid to put his trust in players from the Championship making the step up to life in the Aviva Premiership.

Today, the Chiefs leader has added his latest new face to the club’s playing ranks for next season with the signing of prop Harry Williams from Jersey.

The talented tight-head, who has agreed a two-year deal with the Sandy Park outfit, is Baxter’s seventh new addition for next term and his second is as many weeks from English rugby’s second tier.

Williams follows Nottingham hooker Shaun Malton in offering the Chiefs fresh options to their front-row for the 2015/16 season.

Welcoming the 23-year-old forward to the club, Baxter said: "We obviously spend a lot time looking at the Championship – we have had a good deal of success with players from there. That is both in terms of players we came up with when we got promoted and players we have brought in from the Championship.

"We know it is a strong breeding ground for players and we are always pretty keen to look at front-five forwards in particular as it is a very good stepping stone for them into the Premiership. We keep an eye on the Championship from the second or third week of the season onwards really.

"Harry was starting to stand out as a very good set-piece forward and we spent a bit of time breaking down his play all over the pitch. To be honest, I was pretty impressed with what I saw.

"The fundamentals of what you need to be a Premiership tight-head prop are there. He is developing and it will be our job over the next couple of years to help him improve as much as he can. Hopefully we can bring him through and help him become a strong Premiership tight-head."

In recent seasons Baxter has unearthed some real gems from the Championship, particularly up front, where the likes of Jack Yeandle, Tomas Francis, Elvis Taione and Mitch Lees have all thrived within the Chiefs first team ranks.

Baxter added: "Front-five forwards are very valuable and very important to any game of rugby, particularly in the Premiership.

"If you look at where our current crop of props are going to be used this season, then there is the possibility of Tom Francis and Moray Low being away playing international rugby, so having the correct strength in depth is very important for us with the World Cup coming up. So many of the Six Nations games clash with the Premiership too.

"All round, Harry is a very good fit for us and we liked what we saw when he visited us. His medical went well, his testing went well, he is a very powerful man, he is a big guy and I think there is plenty of development in him.

"His season in Championship rugby is going very well and we want to help him accelerate through.
It is like Jack Yeandle when we brought him in from Doncaster or Tom Francis when we brought him in – neither had masses and masses of Championship experience.

"Harry has had limited Championship rugby, but he’s done very well. We think we have seen enough. For me, it is a simple equation – if you watch plenty of games and like what you see then the important thing is to believe your own eyes."

A former pupil of Whitgift School, Williams – who was tops the scales at 20st 4lbs and stands 6’2” – was formerly on the books of Wasps as a youngster, before he moved to Loughborough University and later onto Nottingham, where he was on loan before making the move to Jersey.
 

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