Shoemark keen to test himself at Exeter Chiefs

The chance to test himself in a new rugby culture was just one of the draw cards for Jason Shoemark to up sticks from his home in New Zealand and join Aviva Premiership newcomers Exeter Chiefs.

The 29-year-old centre is Rob Baxter’s latest signing at Sandy Park and joins the Devon club having previously run out for Super 15 side the Highlanders.

Shoemark’s capture is another notable sign of the Chiefs intent to cement themselves within the English top flight, where so far Baxter’s side have claimed the scalp of Gloucester, Newcastle Falcons and, more recently, Saracens.

“I’m delighted to have arrived finally,” said Shoemark. “I’ve only just arrived in the last day or so, but the facilities here are outstanding, the boys are great and it looks a really great club.”

Having played all his rugby back home in New Zealand with provincial sides Northland, Otago and Hawke’s Bay, the latter of whom he has captained to the Air New Zealand semi-finals, the talented midfielder has also made quite a name for himself at Super 15 level where he has also run out for not only the Highlanders, but also the Blues.

It is this new challenge, though, that clearly excites the player. He said: “It’s a new challenge for me, but one I am really looking forward to. I have been playing rugby in New Zealand since 1999 and loved every moment of it, but obviously coming over here it’s going to be a different style of play for me and the chance to add things to my game.

“Also it’s a good time to travel with the family and see different things, so all of that was a big draw card in me coming over here.”

Shoemark admits he has watched from afar as his new team-mates have taken the top flight by storm, but now the experienced centre is hoping to play a key role in pushing the Chiefs onwards and upwards.

“This is my first taste rugby over in the Northern Hempishere, but I’ve seen the guys have been going well. The club are a bit like Hawke’s Bay back home. They came up from the second division and made the semi-final the second year they were in the first division. I was part of that side and it’s great to come here and see the same sort of challenges.

“Already the guys here have taken some great steps by winning some crucial games and hopefully they can continue that.”

With Shoemark ready to test himself against top sides such as Leicester Tigers, Northampton Saints, London Wasps and London Irish to name but a few, the thrill of sampling English rugby is something that clearly excites the father of two.

“The style, I guess, is a lot different to what I’m used to back home,” he added. “There seems to be more tactical kicking and it’s a lot more forward orientated. Also the physicality of the game sounds a lot more, but as a midfielder you have to try to impose yourself both in defence and in attack, so that will be a challenge.

“For me it will be great to come up against some of the big sides and playing at all the different stadiums will be awesome. It will be hard – all of it – but as I said, this is a great opportunity for me and my family to experience something new.”

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