Less than 24 hours after confirming the arrival of Bath lock Peter Short to Sandy Park, Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter has added another new addition to his playing ranks with the capture of back Gonzalo Camacho from Aviva Premiership Rugby rivals Harlequins.
The Argentine international, who can play on the wing or in the centre, follows former Quins’ team-mate John Andress in making the move from the capital to Devon and has put pen to paper on a two-year deal to become Baxter’s ninth signing of the summer.
In two seasons at the Twickenham Stoop, the 26-year-old made 30 appearances, scoring a total of 20 points. It was, however, his final five points for the Londoners in May that proved so crucial when his late try helped Harlequins secure a dramatic victory over Stade Francais in the final of the 2011 Amlin Challenge Cup in Cardiff.
Welcoming Camacho to the Chiefs, Baxter said: “We have said for some time that we have been looking for a replacement for Nemani [Nadolo] since we knew he left. Interestingly enough and around the same time, Gonzalo came onto the market and it is just a really good fit for us.
“He’s a completely different player to Nemani, but also a different kind of player to what we have here already. He’s a smaller, lighter guy, who is more reliant on his footwork and his explosive pace over a short distance. He is a very tough, competitive player – which is obviously very attractive to us – and he’s shown some good form at the time he became available playing very well in a Harlequins side that was also playing very well. As I said, he’s a really good signing for us.”
With the likelihood of Camacho being included in the Argentina squad for the forthcoming World Cup, it may not be until October before Chiefs supporters finally get to see the player pull on an Exeter jersey.
Baxter added: “Fortunately for him, perhaps unfortunately for us, he’s in the World Cup so it means we will have to wait a little while to see him, but he will join up with us as soon as the World Cup finishes. That said, he has already come down, he’s done a good testing with us; he’s a very good character and I am sure he will fit right in. I believe he gives us a real strong option right across our back three.”
Camacho, though, insists he cannot wait to begin life with the Chiefs. He said: “I am very excited about this new experience and coming to live and play in Exeter. I have heard nothing but good things about the club and having played at the stadium in Exeter, I loved the crowd. They are crazy for the team and I love that.
“When I came down to Exeter a few weeks ago the people there seemed so friendly. You don’t find that everywhere, but it was an amazing experience. The club too was very nice and the set-up is very professional.”
In a final goodbye to Harlequins, however, Camacho added: “Harlequins is a great club with lots of great people. I have made many good friends there and that is priceless for me. Obviously winning the Challenge Cup was another thing that I will not forget easily, but now I am looking forward to my new start with Exeter.”
Interest in the signature of Camacho was rife with newly-promoted Worcester Warriors also keen on acquiring the services of the player, who has won five international caps for the Pumas. And Baxter admitted that the Chiefs had to move swiftly to ensure they got the Buenos Aries-born back on board.
He said: “The timing was right for us to act. We managed to move quickly and got things wrapped up relatively quickly as well. We have had to wait a little while as he has been back in Argentina preparing for the World Cup, but we’ve got things done and dusted very quickly.”
With Camacho the last of Baxter’s summer recruitment plans, the Exeter coach insists he is excited about the look of his squad for the 2011/12 campaign.
He added: “We have got some very good players now and if you look at the make-up of the squad, we look strong in a lot of areas. We have clearly moved on again from last season and there is genuinely going to be real competition for places.
“I also think we have got a good balance, numbers-wise we are about right with 36 senior players and 10 or 11 academy guys on top of that, so we feel pretty good about things. We have got a lot of our academy guys into Championship clubs, which is going to be good for their development, and I think the key now is to work hard in pre-season with this group of players and make sure we start the season very well.”
NAME: Gonzalo Camacho
BIRTHPLACE: Buenos Aries, Argentina
HEIGHT: 5’10 / 1.78m
WEIGHT: 13st 5lbs / 85kg
PREVIOUS CLUBS: Buenos Aries, Harlequins
HONOURS: Argentina (5 caps), Argentina 7s