Following a story that broke in the Irish media on Sunday that Stuart Olding was on the brink of joining Exeter Chiefs, the reigning English champions have made the unusual decision to confirm they have no interest in the rumoured signing.
Rob Hunter, Exeter’s forwards coach, was speaking to the club’s official website in the aftermath of their 45-5 victory over London Irish on Sunday and stated the following.
“I can tell you what I know, which is nothing, it’s not something that we’ve discussed in the office.”
“So, it’s another one of those where we’ve been linked to somebody but we’ve not spoken to an agent and we’ve not spoken to a player. It’s not on our radar at all.”
“We get linked to lots of players, but it’s nothing to do with us really.”
For a club to be linked in the media with players they have no or little interest in is nothing new, but the decision to publicly deny those rumours is rare, usually reserved for players still under contract at the end of a season or clubs who have been linked to a player out of their reach financially.
This is a clear example of the challenge that faces both Olding and Paddy Jackson in their search for new clubs, after the pair were found not guilty of rape at their trial in Belfast last month, but an internal review at the IRFU and Ulster found their behaviour unacceptable and revoked their contracts.
Exeter’s out of character decision to stamp out this rumour before it could grow any momentum indicates the strength of feeling among fans and it will be a testing task for the pair to convince teams that what they offer on the pitch will surpass the PR backlash that seems inevitable to come with their signings.
Amid the reports linking Olding with a move to Exeter, Jackson has been mooted as being on Clermont’s shopping list, with the French side sorely tested at fly-half this season, following a string of injuries.
Melbourne Rebels openside flanker Richard Hardwick was out cold before he even hit the ground after a head clash with Emiliano Boffelli on the weekend. Commentators suggest it was competition for squad places that may have lead to the incident.