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Exeter sign Leinster pair, including an England-qualified lock

By Kim Ekin
(Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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Exeter have bolstered their squad for the 2022/23 season, confirming the double signing from Leinster of Jack Dunne and Rory O’Loughlin. Chiefs boss Rob Baxter had hinted at his midweek media briefing that some new arrivals had been signed off on and were set to be publicly announced.  

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That announcement followed on Thursday afternoon, with Exeter describing the Irish duo as “significant captures”. An Exeter statement read: “Second row Dunne, who stands at 6ft 8ins and tips the scales at 120kg, is an Irish U20s international who has come through the academy system at Leinster. 

“Schooled initially at St Michael’s College, the imposing forward then moved onto Trinity College in Dublin where he combined his rugby career with that of a four-year degree in theoretical physics.

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“He made his Leinster debut back in 2019 against Zebre in the PRO14 but a significant knee injury and covid restrictions have meant that game time has been limited until recently. Now fully fit, Dunne – who is English-qualified – is looking to play his part for the Irish province before heading to Sandy Park next season.

“Joining him at the Chiefs will be clubmate O’Loughlin, who is another who has played through the age-grades at Leinster, making his first-team debut back in 2016 against Benetton Treviso. Since then, the gifted centre has amassed almost 100 appearances for the club, scoring 21 tries in the process.

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“A key figure in the Leinster midfield for a number of years, the Irish international has helped the club to lift four domestic league titles, as well as the Heineken Champions Cup in 2018 against Racing 92.”

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Exeter boss Baxter added about Dunne and O’Loughlin: “People will be aware that we have lost a few players for next season, so we have been into the market and we have moved very quickly to get Jack and Rory on board. As soon as I looked at clips of Jack he impressed me a lot. He is a big guy, but he is a big guy who can really move. 

“He is young, the right age, and everything I saw in the clips I liked. Meeting him here at Sandy Park doing his medical was good. He has had a relatively significant injury in recent times, so if people have been looking to him playing over the last twelve months, he has not had a huge amount of game time. That said, he is back now and playing for Leinster, so he coming through things.

“Personally, I can only see an upward performance curve in him. With game time, genuine input and probably a little bit more opportunity to play than he did at Leinster, who have got an awful lot of very good second rows, I think it fits for both sides. We have a slot there, Jack is looking to play more rugby, he is EQP, which obviously helps us and creates opportunities for him here in England as well, so the package has been great and hopefully he is someone who will play a lot of rugby for us.

“Rory is slightly different. He is an older guy, but with bags of experience having come through all the levels at Leinster, right up to winning a Heineken Cup with them. That is the kind of guy we are probably looking for in our backline. He is someone who can add genuine communication, a bit of talk, a bit of heads-up and can see space a little bit, understand where we are, alongside being a very good rugby player.

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“We are kind of looking for different things from the two players, but we believe we have got that with these two guys. They have got good experience, come from a very good environment, where they have been part of a high performing team and training unit, so they tick a lot of boxes for us.

“We have played against Leinster numerous times and you can see the success they have had in both their domestic competition, as well as in Europe. These guys have been in that environment for a long time and they will have learnt a lot, so we’re hopeful we can learn from them and that we can teach them something. Having a combination of the two like that, it should be very successful.”

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