Exeter Chiefs to raid Premiership rival for new lock
Exeter Chiefs‘ plans for the 2019/20 season are set to take another step forward in the coming weeks, as they prepare to confirm the arrival of a new second row.
The Gallagher Premiership leaders have seen homegrown product Sam Skinner commit his international future to Scotland this season, something which has seen their resources in the engine room stretched thin during international windows, especially with Jonny Hill‘s recent absence due to injury. Skinner’s RPI of 91 and Hill’s score of 87 make them the second and third highest rated locks in the Premiership respectively, with only Maro Itoje, 92, ahead of them.
With Hill also likely to be on the international radar in 2019/20, having toured South Africa with England last year, albeit without winning a debut cap, the club are clearly keen to strengthen their stock of second rows.
Witty had a breakout campaign for Newcastle last season, featuring prominently alongside Calum Green, and established himself as a very adept lineout forward. Between he and Green, visitors to Kingston Park were put under constant pressure at the set-piece, whilst the pair also helped to provide the platform from which Falcons flourished last season.
The 6′ 5″ forward was a part of the England side that made it to the final of the 2015 World Rugby U20 Championship, starting alongside Charlie Ewels, as well as other senior England internationals Ellis Genge and Paul Hill.
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Only eligible for England and facing stiff competition at his position internationally, Exeter will have an effective lineout operator in Witty that they should be able to rely on for the entire season, something which is valued particularly highly in the south-west, with the club’s proficiency at the set-piece and with their driving maul often paramount to their success.
Witty could find himself in a competition with Mitch Lees, Dave Dennis, Ollie Atkins and Sean Lonsdale to regularly feature alongside Skinner and Hill next season, although both Dennis and Atkins are in contract years and could end up moving on in the summer.
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