Exeter Chiefs have added their eighth new signing of the summer with the capture of second row Peter Short from Aviva Premiership counterparts Bath Rugby.
The 31-year-old forward has agreed a one-year deal with the Chiefs and arrives in Devon having spent the past six seasons at the Recreation Ground, where he amassed 145 appearances for the club, scoring 20 points in total. Short admits that whilst he has enjoyed his lengthy tenure at Bath, the time was now right for him to take on and tackle a new challenge within the game.
Initially it appeared that challenge may have taken him across the English Channel to Paris, where he was due to sign for Top 14 outfit Stade Francais. However, recent events at the French club saw that move break down and the Chiefs moved swiftly to secure his services for the 2011/12 campaign.
And Exeter head coach Rob Baxter is delighted to have got the Liverpool-born forward on board for the new season. He said: “We had a look at him before he decided to go to Stade Francais. We met him a while ago but it looked like that had gone cold for us. With developments at Stade things changed and when he became available again we met him again and had another chat and watched more games because he came back fit towards the end of the season, including playing against us.”
His 72 minute display against the Chiefs was one of just six appearances Short made last season for Bath. A torn bicep meant he was forced to sit out a section of the season, but he did return in the latter weeks and Baxter was suitably impressed by what he saw from the 6ft 5in, 19-stone lock.
“He didn’t play much last season, but we feel he can add something to the squad,” added Baxter, who has also added fellow lock Aly Muldowney from Glasgow Warriors this summer. “He’s the type of player I was looking to bring in to the front five. He’s a bit bigger and sometimes that element of bulk is what you need in certain games and at certain times of the year.
“He’s also a good line-out forward and good at restarts, which sometimes you don’t see as the job of the bigger second rows. He’s capable of playing in the back row and that’s a good fit for us because we ask a lot of our front five, we expect them to work very hard and get through a lot of work. He’s a bit older and the benefit of that is that he brings a lot of experience to a younger pack. He ticks a lot of boxes for us so it was an easy decision to go for him once he became available again.”
Although last season was one which Short himself was happy to write off, Baxter insists he has no major concerns over the long-term fitness of his newest addition.
“In many ways he’s in great shape physically,” he said. “He’s about 120kg but only about eight per cent body fat – he is in great shape. He has a bicep injury last season but that can happen to any forward over the course of their career – we’ve had several players do that at the club and they’ve all come back fine. He’s also had an on-going knee injury throughout his career but it hasn’t stopped him playing.
“We’ve done a full screening and we know what the concerns are, but if you checked any forward at this time of year they would all have bits and pieces wrong with them. Tom Hayes and James Hanks were bashed about last season but it didn’t stop them playing. I’m very confident Peter is the sort of person who knows how to manage himself, how to look after himself after training and after matches to keep himself in the best possible condition.”
With Short ticking numerous boxes on Baxter’s player checklist, the player himself is relishing the opportunity of running out for the Chiefs in the top flight.
He said: “Obviously I’ve had some really good few years at Bath, but things are starting to change up there and I’m now looking forward to a new challenge with Exeter. The set-up is clearly fantastic and you can see the club is built on solid foundations. Talking to Rob as well, he’s an impressive guy and I liked what he had to say about the future direction of the club. You can see the club are wanting to build on last season and I want to be part of that as well.
“Exeter had a great season last year and full credit to them for that. You can see they are a tight group of players, they’re well-conditioned, and they know what they are doing and they want to get better. As I said, it’s going to be a new and fresh challenge for me, but it’s one that I am relishing.”
Certainly Short was impressed by the vision of the future portrayed by Baxter, a man the newcomer is keen to work with over the coming season.
He added: “I like the manner of the man. He clearly knows what he is talking about and has a good outlook on the game. I spoke to a few other guys about him and they said he was a straight shooter and someone who likes you to work hard and do your bit for the team. He’s been there and done it in the past and watching Exeter from afar this year, you can see he has a vision on how they want to play and how they want to develop. As a front five forward I like the ideas he has, so I’m looking forward to working with him.”
With the Chiefs set for only their second ever season in the Premiership, Short is well aware that Exeter will not catch their league rivals out so easily – especially after producing such an impressive first year of action.
“Of course the new season is going to be tough,” said Short, who has previously played for Moseley, Leicester Tigers and Narbonne. “People will know a lot more about Exeter this year, but equally Exeter will know more about the opposition so it kind of works two-way in that respect. I think a lot of people looked at Exeter at the start of last season as being the league’s potential whipping boys, but as we saw they proved a lot of people wrong and I doubt people will be thinking like that again this year.”
NAME: Peter Short
HEIGHT: 6’5 (1.96m)
WEIGHT: 19st 6lbs (124kg)
PREVIOUS CLUBS: Moseley, Leicester Tigers, Narbonne, Bath
REP HONS: England Saxons, Under-21s, Students, Barbarians