By Mark Stevens
Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter has spoken of his delight after highly-rated forward Luke Cowan-Dickie today put pen to paper on a new contract with the Aviva Premiership club.
The 20-year-old’s new deal – which is a two-year extension to his current contract – will keep him at Sandy Park until at least the summer of 2017 and is another clear indicator that Baxter is willing to back the club’s crop of promising youngsters to deliver on the big stage.
Cornishman Cowan-Dickie, a product of the club’s academy system at Truro College, has built on the success of helping England Under-20s to Junior World Championship glory last summer to establish himself firmly within the first team picture at the Chiefs this season.
With 21 first team appearances to his name, ten of which have come this season in the Premiership, Baxter believes the Truro-born forward has all the qualities to reach the very top end of the game.
“I’m very pleased Luke has signed on with us,” said Baxter. “It’s very much like when Sam Hill signed a little while back, it’s great that these young guys want to commit their futures to us.
“Having them on board and signed up means they can now settle down for the next three or four years and enjoy what they are doing here because they still have things to develop on.
“Luke is breaking into the Premiership side now and he is making some starts, but he will be the first person to admit that he has a lot of hard work to do. For me, that’s a fantastic attitude to have because we want to work hard with him and he wants to get the hard work done.
“Looking at him, I can see him over the next few years really thriving in the environment we have here at the club and playing more and more rugby.”
Certainly pundits at the very top end of the game believe Cowan-Dickie has what it takes to fulfil his ambitions, but Baxter says for that to happen the player himself will have to be willing to keep working hard.
He added: “He’s a young man who I believe has the potential to play for England. He is a natural rugby player who loves running around the pitch and smashing into things. He’s also a smart kid who brings a lot of good attributes and a lot of energy both in games and training.
“Physically he’s still developing and maturing as well, but what you see is he has fantastic potential. We saw it with the Under-20s and we’ve seen in it every game he has played at this level for us. I only see a bright future for him, providing he gets his head down and works hard.”
Securing the immediate future of Cowan-Dickie is not only a boost for Baxter and the Chiefs, but it’s another indication of the fantastic work being carried out by the club’s academy system in nurturing the best talent from around the local area.
“It’s an important part of where we go and we are obviously backing these lads with these contracts to become senior players for us, “ said Baxter, “As I’ve said before, we will do that with any of our academy lads who show they have the right qualities.
“It’s not something you can rush or throw at every player, but what the player has to demonstrate is that they are good enough to be a Premiership player and that they have the right attitude. After that it becomes very simple for us to give them an opportunity to shine.
“We are not a club that is going to dish out Premiership games just because they have come through our academy, these guys have to earn those performances through what they have shown us.”