Exeter Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter believes he has picked up three of the brightest young talents in the English game following the confirmation of Wasps slipping into administration, writes Mark Stevens.
Having already secured the services of hooker Dan Frost last month, Baxter has swooped to seal the signings of Academy youngsters Alfie Bell, Greg Fisilau and Immanuel Feyi-Waboso.
Lock Bell, who hails from Nuneaton, is an England Under-20s international and stands at a whopping 6ft 8in tall and tips the scales at 118kg.
Back-row forward Fisilau was born in Plymouth and is the son of former Albion and Tonga centre, Keni Fisilau. Like Bell, he too is an England Under-20s international, standing at 6ft 2in tall and 109kg.
Feyi-Waboso, meanwhile, was born in Cardiff and came through Cardiff’s Academy before he transferred to Aston University in Birmingham and was then picked up by Wasps. A lightning-quick back, who can play in the centre or on the wing, he has previously featured for Wales at Under-18 level, as well as being part of their Under-20s squad.
The talented trio, all aged 19, have all been added to the Chiefs squad this week and Baxter is looking forward to them playing an exciting part in the future of the Devon club.
“Once things started happening as it did at Worcester and Wasps, the players we actually started looking at first were the young guys for obvious reasons,” said Baxter. “I’ve made it clear a few times now, I want to find guys who have not won anything and I want to find that next group whose sole focus is winning.
“I want a group that enjoy being on a journey that takes them to winning Premiership titles, winning European Cups or becoming international players. I don’t mind saying it, Wasps have a very talented group of players there - they have done fantastically well bringing them through to where they are now - and for me, it was the most exciting thing about looking at the players becoming available.
“Manny has played in their Premiership Cup games on the wing and done very well. He’s a bit like Tom O’Flaherty in that he was playing in Wales, but then transferred to Aston University and got picked up by Wasps. Already he looks to me as though he’s going very well, he looks good in training and that he could easily be thrown into a match-day 23 at any stage.
“With both Greg and Alfie, they are both within the England Under-20s set-up. When I spoke to Greg, I said tell me about your rugby story and he said he spent a lot of time as a youngster down in Plymouth where his dad was playing at the time. In a different scenario, he could easily have come through our academy system had he spent longer down here.
“He’s another who has played in the Premiership Cup, he’s had time playing in the Championship, and he looks to be on that pathway, similar to Sam Simmonds when he was in the Championship, that really excites me. With Sam moving on at the end of the season, he may well take on that mantel of being that explosive, ball-carrying, all-action No.8 for the future.
“And Alfie, he’s a big guy, another who has had that bit of experience playing in the Championship, so we’re very excited at what all of them will bring. What I like already is that all of them are willing to work and want to improve. That’s a great trait to have and I’m seeing it in abundance from all three of them.”