James Scaysbrook has spoken of his pride at being part of the core group that have allowed Exeter Chiefs to establish themselves within English rugby’s top tier.
The 33-year-old forward is to bring to a close his six-year spell in Devon at the end of the season – and will head for a new venture in the Far East, where he is set to take up a new post as head coach of Kowloon RFC and also work with the Hong Kong Union.
A key figure in the rise of Exeter over the past few years, Scaysbrook will depart the Chiefs having amassed 122 league and cup appearances and eight tries to boot.
His destructive on-field presence has proved invaluable to head coach Rob Baxter as the Sandy Park outfit initially made their way out of the Championship – overcoming rivals Bristol in 2010 – and then establishing themselves as a proven force within the Aviva Premiership.
Although game time has been somewhat limited for the former Bath forward this season, he’s never been far away from the rugby field having helped to coach Plymouth Albion during their Championship campaign.
Reflecting on his time with the Chiefs, Scaysbrook said: “I am very proud to say I was part of the group that started the journey for Exeter. Those first couple of years are among the fondest memories of my playing career.
“It is nice to have gone through that development stage with the club and the core of it all stayed together – and I think that has been part of the success at Exeter, we have had a group who have integrated players into everything that we have stood for as a club.”
As one of a number of new faces brought to the club by Baxter back in 2009, Scaysbrook admitted it had been a big decision to drop down a level in his career.
Years later, though, his decision has been fully vindicated as he’s helped to drive the Chiefs on both in the Premiership and Europe.
“When I first came to speak to Rob, I was instantly impressed with him, you could see there was something definitely building within the club,” added Scaysbrook. “It was all really positive, you could see that something special was going to happen.
“A lot of hard work went into not only going up but staying in the Premiership as well. Everyone was expecting us to go straight back down and wanting to prove people wrong was a huge motivating factor.
“Beating Bristol was a highlight of my time at the club, but the whole month leading up to that game was special, when everything else in our lives was put on hold.
“The first year in the Premiership was also a big one, getting the club into the Heineken Cup was huge and going to some big places like Toulon, Leinster and Clermont, that was reward not just for ourselves but also the supporters who had put so much faith in us as a group previously and had supported us so well, so it was great to reward them.”
As for the future, Scaysbrook admits he is ‘excited’ by the challenge that lies ahead. He continued: ‘I can’t wait. It is obviously a big move going out there with the family, but I am looking forward to getting my teeth stuck into that role.
“We made our home in Exeter, both children were born here, so we’ve had a great time and now we’re looking forward to the next chapter. I am not sure what to expect in Hong Kong, it will certainly be different, but it will be a change of lifestyle and you get to see a different part of the world, so we’re looking forward to that.”
Before he departs, Scaysbrook will be reflecting on his English career with a special benefit dinner that will be staged at Sandy Park on Friday, June 12 (7pm).
Joined by former colleagues of the Chiefs and Bath, the night will be hosted by former England prop and now TV presenter David Flatman and will include a drinks reception, three-course meal and a night of entertainment.
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