Aaron Hinkley says he is relishing the new challenge that awaits next season after he agreed to join the Exeter Chiefs from Gallagher Premiership rivals, Gloucester Rugby.
The 20-year-old forward will make the switch to Sandy Park this summer, having agreed a two-year deal with the Devon club.
He is Exeter’s third confirmed capture ahead of the 2020/21 season and follows Scottish internationals Jonny Gray and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne in joining Rob Baxter’s squad.
The Hereford-born flanker was a pupil at St Peter’s High School in Gloucester before joining the club’s Academy set-up in 2017. The following year he made his first-team debut as a replacement for Ben Morgan in an Anglo-Welsh Cup fixture against Newcastle Falcons.
Since then, he has combined life with the Cherry & Whites by featuring initially for Cinderford in the National League and then Hartpury College in the RFU Championship.
To date, he has featured 12 times for Gloucester, scoring tries against Harlequins and London Irish in this season’s Premiership Rugby Cup. However, he sees his future away from Kingsholm and is excited about testing himself in a new environment with the Chiefs.
“I’m very excited about the move,” said Hinkley, who has been capped at both Under-18s and Under-20s level with England. “I was coming to the end of my contract at Gloucester and when I heard there was some interest from Exeter, I wanted to hear more of what they had to say.
“Speaking with Rob Baxter and Rob Hunter, I liked what they had to say and how they wanted to work with me and develop my game moving forward. Everyone knows that Exeter are one of the best clubs in Europe and that they have created a great environment and a great culture for their players.
“Obviously, I’m grateful for the opportunities that Gloucester have given me over the last few years, but I feel the time is right for me to try something different. I know going down to Exeter is going to be a huge challenge, especially when you see the quality of their squad, but I believe they can help take me to another level
Baxter himself is delighted to have acquired the services of Hinkley, who was named man of the match when he featured for England Under-20s at Sandy Park last season.
“Aaron is someone who we have looked at very closely,” said Baxter. “We met him and really liked what he had to say and liked his character. He’s got raw pace and he’s a player that likes to get in and around the ball a lot.
“Those are important features for us because, I know people will look at our pack of forwards and talk about the size of it and that they are big and physical, which they are, but you also need to have elements of pace and you need to build a group of players in your pack that can do something together.
“What you see with Aaron is he’s someone we feel who can drop into our combinations very well and provide some of those key elements. At the same time, he’s also got other attributes that we can only seeing growing with us more and more.
“I can see him being a guy who has good line-speed attributes; will be strong over the ball; and he’s got a pinball way of getting through contact, which I think will be great for us.
“He’s also a young guy who has only just come out of the England Under-20s, so we seem him physically developing for a number of years yet. Those are the kind of qualities that we want to see. We want to see the attributes that will make him part of various combinations we want to put on the field on a regular basis.”
And being English-qualified too, Hinkley ticks a number of other boxes for Baxter in terms of his overall squad.
“We feel like we are going well and that we are a team that have got a lot of things right over the last few years,” added Baxter. “However, the last thing I want us to do is sit on our laurels and expect the players we have got to just keep us progressing. It doesn’t work like that.
“Although we have a good age range to the squad at the minute, you also do have senior players who do move beyond their best years and start to move out of contract, so it’s really important we have plans in place about where we might be in two or three years’ time.
“Where we are really lucky with Aaron is we feel he has lots of qualities that man he can play first team rugby pretty quickly, but I can also see him playing, progressing and improving over a number of years. I think that’s the exciting thing, we feel can bring players in who are pretty much ready to go now, but who you can also see that physical and playing maturity still developing.”