Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter has spoken of his delight at landing the signing of Australian international Greg Holmes for next season.
Baxter today confirmed he had finalised terms with the Queensland Reds tight-head on a two-year deal.
Holmes, who has won 24 international caps for the Wallabies, is Baxter’s first confirmed signing for the 2016/17 season.
Commenting on the signing, Baxter said: “The important thing to remember is the set-piece and the forward battle is not something that is going to be less important in top flight rugby, so we’re always looking to strengthen and look at options around our front five.
“We are going very well at the moment, the props we have are doing really well, and we have got a really good stable of tight-heads, but I think it is always something you can add to, if you get the opportunity.
“We became aware Greg was on the market, potentially looking for a move and wanting to experience something a bit different outside of Australia, so obviously myself and Rob Hunter did a fair amount of work on him.
“We watched a lot of his games for Queensland and the games he featured for Australia in the Rugby World Cup and I think anyone who looked at Australia’s scrum will see they were one of the most destructive units in the tournament and Greg played a large part in that.
“Since then I have looked a lot of his games and he looks like a guy who has a lot left in the tank and he’s running around playing a lot of good rugby.”
Baxter continued:“We did a bit of work on his character by chatting to Dean Mumm and how he thought he would fit in at Exeter and everything was very positive. Following those discussions and others that we have had with, we’re delighted that we have signed a tight-head prop who is up there as being one of the best in world rugby.
“He is a prop who likes to take part in the game, he’s not just a set-piece prop, and his all-round package will suit us down to the ground. As I said, we’ve looked at the way he has played for the Reds and for Australia and we like what we see.”
Certainly the arrival of another proven international within the Sandy Park ranks shows that the Devon club are never shy in looking to move forward and Baxter believes his new arrival will help develop those around him.
“There is a lot of things you do when you’re putting a squad together,” added Baxter.”We’re big believers here at the club of developing young English players, but I’ve said before part of the way you develop those young players is with the people who they meet and the people they have time with.
“There is no doubt our other front-rowers will benefit from having Greg around, but at the same time he’s very determined to be successful in his own right.
“One thing Greg said to me was that he wasn’t looking to move into retirement mode over here, he wanted to come and test himself and try and win things and enjoy being in a new environment and a new situation where he can really challenge himself and see what he can achieve.
“Over the years we have brought in some very good players from all over the world. Guys who have quickly bought into what we want to achieve as a club and that’s helped improve all our players.
“If these players help us qualify for Champions Cup, all of a sudden you will get some of the best young players in England, guys like Dave Ewers, Henry Slade, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jack Nowell and Sam Hill, getting that experience of playing at the very top end.
“You can’t do that all by yourself, instead that has to be based on the squad you put together and that’s important. You simply can’t go all one way or the other, and I like to think we try and find a happy balance and sometimes that’s about bringing players in and sometimes it’s about developing your own players.”