Following Rob Baxter’s comments in the summer that Exeter Chiefs may have to resign themselves to the departure of one or more of their star players, as they bid to stay under the Gallagher Premiership’s salary cap, it looks as if they are edging closer to losing one of their homegrown products.
Scrum-half Stu Townsend has had a prominent role with the club over the last couple of seasons, but RugbyPass sources understand that he is highly-coveted by west country rivals Gloucester.
Townsend, 22, was part of the England squad at the World Rugby U20 Championship in 2015 and has since made the most of injuries to Nic White and Jack Maunder, as well as Will Chudley’s departure to Bath, and forced his way into contention for Exeter at senior level.
Unfortunately for the Chiefs, they are currently battling up against the salary cap and with White and Maunder on-board, as well as Jack’s younger brother Sam, also a scrum-half, being handed his first professional contract this past summer, sacrifices may need to be made at half-back.
Gloucester are not currently short of scrum-half options, either, with Willi Heinz, Ben Vellacott and Charlie Chapman all in place this season, but they have also shown an interest in Joe Simpson, as RugbyPass revealed last month.
Beyond the financial situation at Exeter making it difficult for Baxter to retain all of his key players, Townsend may well also view the scrum-half competition at Kingsholm as a more winnable position battle than the one he currently faces at Sandy Park. With White an experienced international and available throughout the season and the elder Maunder brother being talked up as an England scrum-half after the Rugby World Cup, the competition is going to be fierce for the nine jersey moving forward.
Joe Snow is another scrum-half on professional terms at Exeter, taking their tally of half-backs to five, which potentially means retaining Townsend is a luxury, not a necessity, for Baxter and his coaching staff.
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