Exeter Chiefs boss Rob Baxter has moved swiftly to fill the void left by departing skipper Dean Mumm by recruiting fellow Aussie Ollie Atkins from Edinburgh.
Mumm announced earlier this week that he would be bringing a close to his three-year career at Sandy Park when he plans to return back Down Under to re-join former club the Waratahs on a one-year deal.
His exit is certainly a blow for the ambitious Devon club, but Baxter believes he has bolstered his options almost immediately with the acquisition of Atkins, who himself has been given a glowing endorsement from compatriot Mumm.
Baxter said: “We had been aware Dean might be tempted to move back to Australia, but he has been very open and honest about it and that gave us time to assess the market.
“Ollie is actually someone that Dean mentioned having played with him back in Australia. He felt he was a promising young player with a great deal of promise and then our analyst, Simon Norris, who keeps a close eye on the Pro 12, also happened to mention he had seen a young lock that he felt had a couple of decent performances.
“That led us to take a closer look and analyse things a bit more closely and when we learnt Dean was going to leave, we made an approach and things came off.”
Atkins has agreed a two-year deal with the Chiefs and is Baxter’s fourth new capture ahead of next season, joining Parling, Michele Campagnaro and Ollie Woodburn.
Having played much of his rugby back home in Australia with the Waratahs, Western Force and Sydney University, 26-year-old Atkins moved to Scotland in 2013 and has since been a key figure in the Edinburgh squad over the past two seasons.
To date, Hobart-born Atkins has chalked up 25 appearances in the Pro12 for the Scottish outfit and last year he was capped by the Scotland A team.
Baxter has left no stone unturned in his detailed assessment of the imposing lock, who stands at 6ft 6in and tops the scales at 18st 6lbs.
“We have looked at Ollie’s game closely and we had him down here for a good meeting and he has a lot of qualities that will work very well among the group here,” he added.
“He is a bit younger than Dean, he has a great engine and is a real 80-minute player.
“He gets through a great deal of work and, having watched him play and talked to him, there is the potential to add a lot to his game. I think the group of Mitch Lees, Damian Welch, Geoff Parling, potentially Don Armand, Jerry Sexton and Ed Holmes is a strong bunch in a lot of departments.
“Ollie is part of that jigsaw. He is a bit bigger and heavier than Dean and not quite so athletic – mind you, not many locks can gallop in some of the tries Dean has. He isn’t exactly like-for-like, but he has a very high work-rate and a strong set-piece game.
“To find a like-for-like replacement, you would have to scour world rugby and find a player with 33 caps for his country and there are not many of them knocking around. But we seem him as a guy with a lot of potential who will suit Premiership rugby and how we play it.”
Atkins and Mumm are old mates having played together back home in Australia and the latter has helped to give the Exeter newcomer a detailed insight into his new club.
"I'm very excited about the move, I've heard fantastic things about the club and having visited Sandy Park myself, it looks a great facility and a great place to go and play my rugby,” said Atkins.
"Like a lot of people, I've watched how the Chiefs have gone from strength the strength over the last couple of years. The style of rugby they play is really good and you can see that all the players really work hard for one another out on the pitch.
"I spoke to Dean when I came down and he gave me an insight into the club and the area, I've also played in the same club competition as Mitch Lees back home and I know Byron McGuigan from his time up here in Scotland.”