James Freeman hopes to follow the lead of others within the Exeter Chiefs and make his mark in the Aviva Premiership next season.
The 26-year-old forward will head to Sandy Park from Championship side Jersey Reds on a two-year deal determined to prove Rob Baxter’s eye for unearthing emerging talent from English rugby’s second tier remains as sharp as ever.
In recent years the Chiefs head coach has brought in the likes of Harry Williams, Elvis Taione, Shaun Malton, Mitch Lees and Tomas Francis from Championship clubs and all of them have gone on to make their mark with the Devon club.
Freeman, who becomes Baxter’s fifth new face for the 2017/18 season, admits the path trod by the aforementioned is something he is keen to follow – and says the Chiefs have a proven track record when it comes to giving players like himself their big opportunity.
“I’m really excited about the move and becoming part of the Chiefs set-up,” said the Solihull-born player. “I’ve been a massive admirer of what Rob and the club have done since they got into the Premiership – and now I’ve got the chance to be part of things, I know it’s a big opportunity for me.”
Having started out initially at Worcester in their Academy system, Freeman has more recently honed his senior skills with Loughborough University and then Jersey, where he has established himself as one of the stand-out performers within the Championship.
“One of the things that attracted me to the Chiefs was the way in which they’ve brought through players from the Championship,” added Freeman. “They’ve not been afraid to give people their shot at playing at that level.
“Each year you see guys move up into the Premiership and now I’ve got my chance. I know it will be tough, but you expect that. For me, this is a fantastic opportunity to take my career onto that next step and an opportunity that I have to take with both hands.
“Just chatting with Rob about the move, I could see already how much detail they go into at the club. It’s those minute things that can make all the difference at the top end, so I know I’ve got to be ready to step up, work hard and be ready if called upon.”