Rob Baxter is set to replace one international name with another ahead of the 2020/21 season.
With Nic White’s departure back to Australia already confirmed, the Exeter Chiefs Director of Rugby has wasted little time in filling the void left by the gifted scrum-half.
Heading to Sandy Park will be Scottish international Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, who will join the Gallagher Premiership club on a two-year deal from French Top14 side, Lyon.
The 26-year-old half-back is Baxter’s second new signing, alongside that of fellow Scottish star Jonny Gray, and will help further bolster Exeter’s options in the number nine jersey.
Born in Spain, Hidalgo-Clyne moved to Scotland at the age of three and was quickly introduced to rugby at an early age. His talents were clear to see from the outset and having spent the 2011/12 season featuring for Scotland 7s, it was at Edinburgh Rugby were his career really began to take off.
He would spend seven successful years in the Scottish capital, before he opted for a switch to fellow Pro14 rivals, the Scarlets in 2018. His time in Wales proved short and sweet and since then he has featured for Harlequins (on loan), Racing 92 and, more recently, Lyon.
But, according to the man himself, his move to Devon has come at the ‘perfect time’ and he says the opportunity to join the Chiefs was one that he was not going to turn down.
“I’m very excited by the move,” said Hidalgo-Clyne, who has won 12 Test caps and featured at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. “Like a lot of people, I’ve watched how the Chiefs have done and how successful the club have become over the last few years. They are one of the great teams, not just in England, but across Europe, and it will be great to be part of their set-up.
“Even looking in from the outside, you can see Rob has created a fantastic environment for the players. They play a great brand of rugby, everyone appears to enjoy themselves and they are a team who clearly want to win things. As a player, there are a lot of things that would draw you to them. As I said, it’s a great move for me and my family and I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”
Having chatted with Baxter about his impending move, Hidalgo-Clyne said it did not take him long to realise that the Chiefs would be a great fit for him.
“I chatted in detail with Rob and he outlined how he wants the team to play, the aspirations of the club, and what he would expect from me,” he added. “I liked what he had to say and in the end it was a pretty easy decision for me.
“Obviously, they have a quality squad already assembled there and with guys like Jonny coming in as well, it’s only going to get better. I’ve played a lot with Jonny, not only as a youngster, but also with him and Stuart [Hogg] at international level, so it will be good to have a few friendly faces on arrival.”
Equally, having come up against the Chiefs with Harlequins in the past, Exeter’s new recruit is also acutely aware of how tough a team Baxter has moulded in Devon.
“When you look at them as an opponent, they are one of the toughest teams out there,” he continued. “They have strengths all over the pitch and they are a team who like to keep hold of the ball and play for long periods. The way they attack, their defence, their physicality, they have some many areas of their game that are so strong. They rarely have off days!
“Alongside all of that, the support they get down at Sandy Park is incredible. I remember it was not only pretty noisy down there, but it was probably one of the windiest days ever for me on a rugby pitch!
“It’s a great place to go and play, though, and as I said at the outset, I’m looking forward to the challenge ahead.”