Exeter Chiefs announce four new signings

English Premiership Rugby Exeter Chiefs have announced three contract extensions and new signing in young England Under-20s prop Alec Hepburn from Australian club Perth Spirit.

The 21-year-old forward Hepburn, who has previously enjoyed spells with Wasps and London Welsh, has signed a deal that will keep him at Sandy Park until 2017.

Brought into the Chiefs this week by head coach Rob Baxter, Hepburn was a member of the victorious England Under-20s side that won the Junior World Championship in France two years ago, lining up alongside current Exeter young guns Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joel Conlon, Sam Hill, Henry Slade and Jack Nowell.

His arrival in Devon has been welcomed by Baxter, who believes the Perth-born youngster has the potential to reach the very top end of the game.

Baxter said,”Alec was in a bit of a strange rugby situation. He played in the England Under-20s World Cup-winning side with some of our lads, was involved with Wasps and on loan at London Welsh. He was there with Mitch Lees and part of the squad that went on to win promotion.

“He went to Australia for personal family reasons, but when we knew he was coming back to the UK we had a good look at him in those Championship games and had a chat with our lads who played with him for England Under-20s and it all came back very positively that he’s a young player we feel has got a bright future ahead of him.

“I think you’ve always got to be on the look out for those kind of players as well as the players you look for to add experience and decision making.

“He fits the bracket of being a young, exciting player we feel over the next two, three, four years will come through as potentially a top-flight player.”

Baxter has also spoken of his delight after three more of his first team squad today agreed new contracts with the club.

Props Carl Rimmer and Ben Moon have put pen to paper on two-year deals, whilst back-row forward Kai Horstmann is extending his Sandy Park stay by another year.

The trio are the latest in a line of current Chiefs who in recent weeks have pledged their immediate futures to the Devon outfit.

Commenting on the latest news, Baxter said,”Signing Moony and Rimmer is an indication of how we think they’ve done this season. Over the course of the season, these guys look to me like they’re maturing and improving. Neither are particularly old for a prop and they are both coming through into regular Premiership rugby for the first time. That will make them better over a period of time.

“Kai is one of those guys who is great to have around the squad. He’s played very well for us this season and at the end of last season, he’s a very good guy to have around the squad and is a very good trainer. He’s one of the guys who it’s very important to have around and I’m really pleased all three are staying. They’re going to be part of a group of players we hope will grow together.”

This season the three players have all played key roles in helping the Chiefs to not only position themselves within the top five of the Premiership, but also top of both their European and LV= Cup pools.

Indeed, the impressive form of both Moon and Rimmer has seen them feature prominently in the club’s No.1 jersey this term, keeping the likes of the experienced Brett Sturgess on the sidelines.

“They’ve had to be patient, Brett’s had his hands on that starting loosehead slot for quite a long time now and he’s done extremely well,” added Baxter.

“Now they’ve fought their way in and Brett’s having to be patient, the tables have turned a little bit. We’ve got to remember the qualities these lads have shown. They’ve been part of an Exeter pack that have come out on top against very strong packs this season.

“Yes we’re having a few shaky patches at the moment, but that’s all part of learning and getting better. Prop is one of the positions where you get some lessons at times, it doesn’t always go your way and sometimes you come up against someone who is different to what you faced the week before. They are helping us move forward as a team.”

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