Newcastle back Josh Hodge has become Rob Baxter’s fifth new Exeter signing, joining Jonny Gray, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Aaron Hinkley and Corey Baldwin in making the switch to Sandy Park. Equally adept on the wing or at full-back, the 20-year-old took up an apprentice role in Eddie Jones’ England squad preparing for their Six Nations campaign earlier this year after appearing for his country at U18 and U20 level. 

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“He’s just one of those guys that you can see bags of potential in him,” enthused Baxter. “He’s a good goalkicker, genuine pace, a talented ball player and someone who looks like he has lots of physical development still in him.

“For us, we see him as being that ideal fit in the back three for where we are at this moment in time. He can play full-back or wing, which is great.

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“When you look around the Premiership at young players, we have spent a lot of time looking at young players and developing young players and we feel we are really good at it. We see Josh as someone who could come here and thrive for ten years.”

Lancaster-born Hodge was initially football-focused as a youngster, including being part of the Preston North End academy from the age of seven. However, when he switched to Sedbergh school on a sports scholarship rugby took centre stage.

“Initially, I played a bit of Sunday league, but when I got picked up by the Falcons in lower sixth I stopped football and concentrated on my rugby,” explained Hodge, who made his first-team debut at Newcastle last January, scoring a length of the field try against Yorkshire Carnegie in the Championship.

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First-team opportunities were limited at Kingston Park, but Hodge has pedigree as someone who has impressed for England age-grade, even slotting all 24 of his attempted kicks at last year’s Junior World Cup in Argentina. 

“I know a few of the boys at Exeter already from being in the England U20s set-up, and Will Witty was at the Falcons as well,” said Hodge. “That will certainly make settling in a bit easier.

“As for the move itself, I’m over the moon and very excited to be joining the Chiefs. They are a club who are at the top of their game. They have got some great players and a really good coaching team. I like the way they play. It’s a very expansive game and you have seen over the years how they help develop and bring through young players.

“It’s a big move for me, but it’s definitely one that I am looking forward to. I also have to thank everyone at Newcastle for everything they have done for me over the years. I was a fairly late developer in terms of rugby, but they gave me my opportunity and I will always be grateful for the chance they gave me.”

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