Rob Baxter says he is expecting both Sam Hill and James Short to get even better over the next two years after the duo both agreed terms on new deals with the Exeter Chiefs.
The talented backs are the latest squad members to commit their futures to the reigning Aviva Premiership champions, following in the stud marks of team-mates Greg Holmes, Mitch Lees, Gareth Steenson, Elvis Taione, Ian Whitten, Harry Williams and Jack Yeandle, who themselves have all penned new contracts this month.
Keen to ensure the player pool at Sandy Park remains largely untouched, Director of Rugby Baxter has made no secret of the fact that his priority is to ensure he retains a large nucleus of his current squad for the foreseeable future.
Naturally, he is delighted that both Hill and Short have signed on the dotted line and will remain in Devon until the end of the 2020/21 season.
Brought through from the club’s highly successful academy set-up alongside the likes of Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jack Nowell and Henry Slade, Exeter-born Hill made his senior debut for his hometown club in 2012 in an LV= Cup clash away to Wasps. Since then, the powerful and hard running has amassed over 100 appearances for the club, as well as featuring for England at Saxons, Under-20s, 18s and 16s level.
A powerful weapon in Exeter’s attacking arsenal, Baxter said: “Hilly’s had a bit of a broken up season because of injury, but as you can see he’s a very talented player, a strong carrier, and someone who just gets on with the job of playing extremely well.
“He’s a guy who has been on the fringe of England stuff in the past and he’s someone who I genuinely believe could force his way back in there, purely because of his power to break the gain line when he plays. He’s also a very good ball handler, something that he doesn’t always get the credit for, and he’s a very good defender.
“Moving forward, he’s definitely someone who can help create a strong spine to the team. Personally, I still feel there is a lot more to come from Hilly. Obviously injuries have frustrated him at the end of last season and again at the start of this season, but with regular game time I fully expect him to get even stronger.
“As I said, I’m expecting lots from Hilly over the next few years because he’s at the right age, he’s improving year on year, and although he’s in very good physical nick, I don’t think he’s quite reached his prime yet.”
Like Hill, Baxter has been equally impressed with the way in which Short has adapted to life in the Westcountry following his move from London Irish back in the summer of 2015.
A previous Premiership winner with Saracens, Short enjoyed spells with both Wasps and London Irish before Baxter moved swiftly to bring him to the Chiefs. Since then, the 28-year-old winger has underlined his proven talents, scoring 29 tries for the club in just 61 appearances.
“We saw Shorty’s attributes, most notably his pace, and we liked what we saw of him,” added Baxter. “Since coming to us, he’s worked very hard, played in some very big games for us, and obviously scored a lot of points as well.
“What we see in him, however, is a very determined player and someone who is keen to break into that front line on a more regular basis. Although he’s played a lot of rugby - and had some outstanding games for us - there have been times where he has lost out to both Jack Nowell and Olly Woodburn when they’ve been fit.
“What I like about Shorty, though, is that determination to get better and better in what he does. When you have guys in your squad like that, as a coach it then makes the decision to re-sign them a very desirable one. I know from speaking to hm that he doesn’t just want to stay here and fulfil a contract, he wants to be here to improve himself, the club, and really drive his career forward.
“He’s someone who wants to be standing on podiums and celebrating winning things. As I said, when you have guys like that in your squad, especially those who want to get better and be on the frontline, they almost become the biggest drivers of quality and what you want to achieve as a team.”
Member since: 5th January 2016
Hi, I am Mark Stevens, Media and Communications Manager for the Exeter Chiefs