Exeter Chiefs tend not to be the club one thinks of when transfer rumours and protracted contract negotiations are in discussion. But like many things in the world of rugby, this year things have changed. Sandy Park has become a hot bed for potential ins and outs as well as speculation surrounding contract negotiations. Last Word on Rugby looks at the Exeter Chiefs transfer rumours and assess their likelihood.
The big names: Armand, Slade and Nowell
Recently it has been reported by a number of news outlets, including the Mail and RugbyPass, that Jack Nowell, Henry Slade and Don Armand have signed new deals at the club. Reportedly Nowell and Slade’s deals amount to £1.6 million per year.
However, Rob Baxter has come out this week stating that these reports were nothing more that ‘gossip’. He said instead that the club were still in talks with the trio and would not make an announcement until they had something concrete to report.
Interestingly, in the last month Don Armand has been linked with a transfer to France. This has followed his continued exile from Eddie Jones’ England squad. This move seemed more plausible after Baxter had previously stated that he would not break the club’s existing wage structure to cater for ‘star’ players.
With reported interest from France, Don Armand has made a call on his future https://t.co/qB2ZX3OR4k
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 2, 2018
The situation surrounding these three has become more and more murky by the week. Conflicting reports coming from the club have made the situation increasingly intriguing. Should these three be signed to bumper deals it would be a shocking break from the Chiefs existing wage policy.
However, in order to keep these sort of calibre of players Exeter will have to pay top dollar. So it would not be at all surprising to see Exeter splash the cash to keep their England stars.
It seems likely that all three will re-sign. Whether it is on the reported wages remains to be seen but it will be fascinating to follow along.
The homegrown talent: Cowan-Dickie
Cowan-Dickie is another member of the Chiefs squad out of contract in the summer. However his situation has rather flown under the radar. The England international is still in talks with the club according to Rob Baxter. However much less noise has been made about him being close to signing a new deal.
This has lead for some to speculate that contract talks have broken down and Cowan-Dickie may be off to pastures new at the end of the season. This is of course purely speculation and nothing concrete has been released from the player or the club.
However, if this were to be the case it raises the question of his potential new employer. Who may be looking for a new hooker and who can afford him? Sale or Gloucester seem some of the more likely candidates for a transfer but nothing has been reported as of yet.
Having said all this, so little has come from Exeter regarding Cowan Dickie it is too early to speculate on a potential transfer. Once again his story is one that we will be following with intrigue over the next few weeks.
Potential departures: Stu Townsend
The highly rated scrum-half looks to be on his way out of Sandy Park after this season according to Andy Goode. The emergence of the Maunder brothers and Nic White means Townsend has fallen down the pecking order somewhat. He faces a battle for game time and therefore it has been reported he will look for a transfer this summer.
Gloucester look to be the most likely home for Townsend. Although they are not shy of options at scrum-half. However with Willi Heinz over 30 years old, another option may be of benefit to the Cherry and Whites.
This rumour has been more widely reported than others previously mentioned so does seem fairly likely. However there is still a way to go before transfer begin to be confirmed in the New Year. Hence do not be surprised if there is more to run on this story.
Marquee signings: Stuart Hogg
Hogg is reportedly looking to move away from Glasgow at the end of the season. Surprisingly, Exeter Chiefs have emerged as one of the candidates looking for his signature. Of course there is also interest from France especially from Vern Cotter at Montpellier.
Two Premiership Clubs Join The Race To Sign Stuart Hogg https://t.co/7g0EZCfucW
— RugbyLAD (@RugbyLAD7) October 4, 2018
On the face of this one its looks almost impossible. However, when set into some context it seems to make some sense. Phil Dollman is ageing so it is likely that the Chiefs would want to find a quality replacement for him. Hogg would certainly be one hell of a man to step into Dollman’s shoes.
The prospect of Chiefs being willing to pay the money necessary to lure Hogg to Sandy Park seemed preposterous a month ago. However after the reports about the size of Nowell and Slade’s contracts it suddenly seems more plausible.
If the reports about the England duo are true, it may actually make the Chiefs less likely to want to splash the cash on another player. Either way it would be an amazing transfer should they pull it off. However the Hogg rumour seems more of a fantasy than something that should be taken too seriously.
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