Planet Rugby

Exeter bring in Tongan hooker

05th May 2014 10:00

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Elvis Taione Jersey Championship 2013

Elvis Taione: Boosts Exeter's front row stocks

Exeter Chiefs boss Rob Baxter believes new hooker Elvis Taione will offer "something different" to his squad ahead of the 2014/15 season.

The Tongan international is the latest new addition to the playing ranks at Sandy Park having joined from Championship side Jersey.

Baxter has been in the market for a new hooker ever since it was confirmed that Chris Whitehead would be forced to retire with immediate effect following the club's LV= Cup success over Northampton Saints in March.

As always Baxter has studied closely the qualities the powerful 30-year-old can bring to the Chiefs - and it seems he likes what he sees from the 5ft 11in, 17st 9lb forward, who has previously been at Super Rugby sides Waratahs and Western Force in Australia.

"After what happened to Chris [Whitehead], which was a great shame for him, it was always going to be key for us to try to get a hooker," Baxter told Exeter Chiefs' official website.

"The nice thing with Elvis is that we had a good look at him before when we were struggling with the hooker injuries we had. I was aware of the qualities he was bringing to Jersey and I was able to look at some international performances, when he's performed really well.

"He's a little bit different to our other hookers, so they'll all add something different. He's a bit more up and down, he likes to knock people over and run hard and straight, but his set-piece is improving all the time.

"He wants to move to the Premiership for all the right reasons - he wants to be in a really good environment in the build-up to the World Cup. He's very ambitious to play well in that tournament and he knows, if he trains hard and plays well in a real pressure environment in the Premiership, it will hold him in good stead.

"I'm really pleased with the signing, I think he'll really add to the competition in a position in which we're very strong, and he'll be a vital member of the squad that's got a big job next year."

Taione's arrival in Devon not only boosts Exeter's Tongan contingent to two alongside Fetu'u Vainikolo, but it offers Baxter plenty of choice when it comes to the number two jersey next season with Jack Yeandle, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Greg Bateman all vying for a first team spot.

Baxter, who confirmed the signing of Taione in the wake of the club's narrow 30-29 loss to Harlequins in the Aviva Premiership, admits he has no problem in recruiting talent from English rugby's second tier having also added Mitch Lees (London Welsh) and Tomas Francis (London Scottish) for next season.

"A good, proven Championship player can step up and get up to speed pretty quickly with a good pre-season and with good guys around him," added Baxter.

"It's always a balance between bringing in guys you see and giving them opportunities as well as adding quality, and I think we're doing pretty well with both for next season.

"We still might be one or two signings away from where we want to be next season, especially with James Hanks retiring, but we're getting there and I'm comfortable with where we're at."

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