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Graham to trade Chiefs for ... Chiefs

Fri, 09 Aug 2013 14:39
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He’s going to come over here on a year’s contract
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Exeter Chiefs coach Rob Baxter says the Premiership club are edging ever closer to securing a deal to bring New Zealand lock Romana Graham to Sandy Park.

Baxter says he has been forced to bolster his options in the second row ahead of the new campaign as Tom Hayes is still working on his rehabilitation from back surgery and James Hanks is set to miss the start of the season after breaking his collarbone during the early weeks of pre-season.

It’s those issues that have made the Exeter coach turn to the 27-year-old Maori, who has been part of the Kiwi-based Chiefs for the past five years.

“With Tommy still in the end stages of his rehab now, but still not at 100 per cent, and James Hanks breaking his collarbone again we we’re looking a little thin on the ground,” said Baxter.

“We’ve made the decision to strengthen our resources there and so we’ve gone back to a guy we’ve looked at before and we quite liked.

“He was one of a number of people we looked at at the end of last season as a possible player to bring in and quite liked what we saw. At the time our thoughts were that we were okay strength-wise with Tommy having his operation and hopefully making a recovery, James Hanks was expected to be fully fit for the start of the season and we’d signed Don Armand.

“We’d also sent Will Carrick-Smith over to Australia to get some more game time and we had Damian Welch and Dean Mumm so we decided we were okay.

“Since that time we’ve done a bit more work on him and we’re lucky that Waikato are prepared to release him from his ITM contract and he’s going to come over here on a year’s contract.

“We’ll go from there with him. What he’s got to do is prove himself to be a Premiership starter and then it’s really in his hands how much rugby he plays and how he goes. We’re quite comfortable with what we’ve seen.

“He is a big guy, but we think we can work on bit of his conditioning and add a bit to the amount of actions he makes in a game. He’s a big, physical, explosive kind of guy and I think he’ll add something to what we have there in that department.”

With the Chiefs now working on the necessary documentation to get Graham’s move completed, Baxter is hopeful it will not be too long before his latest newcomer arrives in Devon.

“We’re hoping, as long as everything goes well, that he’ll be over here before the start of the season. We’re expecting him to take some part in our pre-season games and be up and running,” said Baxter.

“He’s been involved in the Super Rugby squad, although he hasn’t played much rugby within it. His focus has been on preparing for the ITM Cup, so the timing of where he is conditioning-wise is pretty good for us so we’re not anticipating many problems getting him ready to play rugby.”

The Chiefs coach also admitted that Graham’s pending arrival would likely complete the club’s recruitment ahead of the 2013/14 season.

“That should be it for recruitment for next season,” he said. “If we have a crippling injury crisis in one position next season that will change, but we feel that will give us that extra bit of cover we need at second row.

“Don Armand is here now and up and running, Fetu’u Vainikolo arrived here this week, so we’re getting to the full-strength squad we want.”

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