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The 2 problem positions Exeter chairman freely admits they traditionally struggle to fill locally

By Ian Cameron
(Photo by INPHO via EPCR)

Exeter Chairman Tony Rowe is a man for pulling his punches when talking to the media, and he didn’t shy away from pinpointing the two positions that the good people of Devon and Cornwall have not been able to supply them with.

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While Exeter have a proud record of developing players and have produced homegrown England star likes Jack Nowell, Henry Slade and Luke Cowan-Dickie, Rowe admits two positions have been harder to fill than most with local talent.

“More than half the squad today have come through our academy. But they don’t grow very tall in Cornwall or Devon, I don’t know why. So we’ve had to bring in our locks,” said Rowe.

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Jack Nowell talks about a possible Exeter Chiefs dynasty
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Jack Nowell talks about a possible Exeter Chiefs dynasty

“And for some reason we don’t breed good full-backs. With the boys coming through the academy, you can only get what you’ve got. Rob Baxter is bringing in these guys because we haven’t got anyone of that standard.”

Eyebrows were raised when the club – who have traditionally valued developing local talent and identifying and improving non-star players – signed Scotland internationals Stuart Hogg and Jonny Gray, and now Rowe’s comments shed more light on the thinking behind the high profile acquisitions.

“We could probably find some local locks, but none have popped their head above the parapet. People say ‘why did you get Jonny Gray or Stuart Hogg?’ It’s because we haven’t had one come through our academy who is good enough. If you haven’t got them coming through your own production line, you’ve got to go out and bring them in.”

Hogg especially has been a revelation for the Chiefs, seamlessly filling the void left by the exit of Pumas magician Santiago Cordero in 2019.

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NOTABLE CHIEFS LOCK SIGNINGS:
Ryan Caldwell
Dave Dennis
Jonny Gray
Jonny Hill
Dean Mumm
Geoff Parling
Sam Skinner

NOTABLE CHIEFS FULLBACK SIGNINGS:
Chrysander Botha
Facundo Cordero
Santiago Cordero
Phil Dollman
Stuart Hogg
Josh Hodge

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