Academy trio will extend Exeter Chiefs stay
ROB Baxter says Exeter Chiefs academy trio Jack Nowell, Sam Hill and Henry Slade represent the future of the club – after the trio agreed two-year deals.
Full-back Nowell made his Aviva Premiership debut in the 27-23 win at London Irish last month and also started in the home victory over Scarlets in the Heineken Cup.
Fellow 19-year-olds Hill and Slade started both LV= Cup matches and have been backed to join Nowell in the first team in the future.
The three England under-20 players are gaining experience by playing on dual contracts for either the Cornish Pirates or Plymouth Albion in the Championship, and Baxter has been impressed with what he has seen.
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"We're big believers in our academy system and the quality that's coming through there," he told Echo Sport.
"We're also big believers in these guys as individuals. They've all shown good qualities over the last year or so, particularly in the Championship playing for Plymouth and the Cornish Pirates.
"It's a really nice boost to know they're around for the next couple of years and we can work closely with them to help them develop into Premiership players.
"We're pretty certain all three of them have got what it takes. Jack has already played some Premiership rugby and we're really pleased with how he's gone. He's also played Heineken Cup rugby, which is fantastic for a guy coming through your academy – to see them out there in the Heineken Cup is what it's all about.
"We're pretty sure Sam and Henry have got the attitude and ability to do that themselves. It's great for a club to have quality guys who are recognised at England under-20 level, playing well in the Championship and starting to really add something to our senior squad.
"They are probably the most enjoyable guys to sign on because they have been part of the club's structure for a long time and they represent the future of the club."
The youngsters' deals come after senior players Luke Arscott, Gareth Steenson and Brett Sturgess all penned two-year extensions with the club.
While Nowell has joined them in the first team recently, Baxter admits it may take a little while before fly-half Slade is ready due to the extra demands on playing in the pivotal position.
Former Crediton youngster Hill's progress was hindered by a back injury earlier this term, but Baxter believes he can push the more established players in the centre hard for a place.
"The key for us is to make sure we put them in at the right time," Baxter said. "Jack got selected for the right reasons, which were that he was the form guy at the time to go into that position and play.
"They have to have earned it and, at the same time, we have to have had the faith to look at them and say they are the guys in the squad on form.
"Henry is in a more difficult position at 10. He's got a lot more responsibility on his shoulders, there's a lot more to do regarding calling the plays, leading the team and goalkicking. It will tend to take a 10 a little bit longer but we're very comfortable with the way he's going.
"Sam got a little bit behind Jack with the back injury he had this season, which has stopped him playing regularly for the Pirates.
"He's looked a powerful midfield character in the games he has played and it won't be long before he's really pushing some of our more experienced players to get a shot in the midfield."
The 19 players whose contracts expire at the end of this season are officially allowed to speak to other Premiership clubs from January 1.