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Chiefs welcome Hill on board

Newcomer Jonny Hill wants to follow the lead of other young players at Sandy Park as he looks to establish himself at the Chiefs.

The 21-year-old forward, who has penned a two-year deal with the Devon club after joining from Aviva Premiership rivals Gloucester, has watched from afar as Rob Baxter has allowed the likes of Jack Nowell, Henry Slade, Dave Ewers Luke Cowan-Dickie and Sam Hill to forge themselves as first team regulars.

And now the 6ft 7in, 17st 9lbs lock hopes to tread a similar path as he aims to make an impression having previously been part of Gloucester's Academy set-up where he was also dual-registered with National League One side Hartpury College for the last two seasons.

But with his contract at Kingsholm drawing to a close, the Ludlow-born youngster switched his attentions to Devon to further his career.

"I was at Gloucester for two years, and my contract came up and Rob gave my agent a call," explained Hill, who made two first-team appearances for the Cherry and Whites, coming off the bench against Scarlets and Northampton Saints in the LV= Cup in the 2013-14 season.

"I came for a look around and liked what I saw, and came on down. Seeing people like Jack Nowell, Sam Hill and Dave Ewers coming through at Exeter impressed me.  Rob is really good at giving young players good exposure, and that was a real selling point for me."

Although Hill's arrival has only been officially confirmed this week, the youngster arrived at Sandy Park at the tail end of the last campaign as he fought back from knee and ankle injuries.

"Spending the last few weeks of the season at the club was a good stepping stone for me to get my rehab right and meet all the lads, and hopefully I will be a good few steps ahead of the other lads coming in that will be new to the club, so I am really happy with that," he said.

"I can’t praise the support staff, the physios and the strength and conditioning staff at the club enough. They have been brilliant with me, and looked after me from day one, and they put it all out for me, and I have just got to do it, and it will hopefully stand me in good stead for the season ahead."

Despite being a relative newcomer to the Chiefs, Hill admits he already feels at home and cannot wait to get stuck fully into pre-season which begins in just a few weeks' time.

"There is a good culture at Exeter, everyone is on a level pegging, there is no hierarchy, everyone is really chatty, and all the lads just want to work hard for each other, and it feels like a real family here," added the former England Under-20s international.

Already Baxter and forwards coach Rob Hunter have spelt out to Hill about what they expect from him, but they are keen for him to take things slowly as he comes back from his injury problems.

"They are not expecting anything too drastic at the moment, because I have been injured for a while," said Hill.

"They have said to me to see how it goes and to take it easy. They said I am going to make mistakes, and I know that, but I want to make sure I put myself under pressure to try and get better.

"Having Geoff Parling, Mitch Lees and Damian Welch at the club – three great second rows – will be good for me to learn off, and hopefully I will be able to pick their brains through the season, take the best of it and use that in the future.

"I also spoke to Dean Mumm before he left the club to go home to Australia, and he was great for me. Even though he was leaving, he was spot on with me, and a real good guy."

With plenty of support around him, Hill admits he has not set himself any goals for the new season just yet.

"I just want to get fit first, and then set myself some new targets," he remarked. "Everyone has got aspirations of playing in the Premiership and international rugby, but for me it is first things first, get fit and then take it from there."
 

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