Exeter’s squad strengthening for next season is gathering pace after the Chiefs today confirmed the arrival of Samoan international Josh Tatupu to Sandy Park.
The 24-year-old centre has penned a two-year deal with the Devon club and arrives from French Top 14 outfit Castres.
Set for his first taste of English rugby, Christchurch-born Tatupu says he is relishing the opportunity given to him by Exeter head coach Rob Baxter, who earlier this week confirmed the signings of prop Craig Mitchell and fly-half Myles Dorrian for the 2011/12 season.
Having initially honed his game by playing for Australian Rugby League outfit Melbourne Storm as a teenager, Tatupu has since switched to the 15-man game where he has since featured for the Super Rugby franchise Western Force, NPC for Otago and, more recently, with Castres.
“I’m really excited about this move and cannot wait to get over to Exeter,” said Tatupu, who has been capped by Samoa at both league and union level. “I’ve been over and had a good look at the set-up, which is great, and I had a decent chat with Rob about the direction of the club.
“I’ll be honest I didn’t know too much about Exeter before the move, but I know they’ve had a great season this year and that they are looking to build on that for next season.”
Back in 2008 Tatupu got a taste of what to expect from English rugby’s top flight when he was part of the Western Force touring side, which tackled Newcastle Falcons, Northampton Saints, Saracens and Leicester Tigers in a series of friendlies.
“I know the English game is a lot more physical than what I am used to back home,” he said. “They also put a lot of emphasis on the set-piece and building off that, but for me this is another new challenge. This will be my first go at playing in England, but I hope to bring some of the qualities I have picked up from playing overseas to the Chiefs.”
Welcoming Tatupu to Sandy Park, Baxter said: “We are really pleased to have Josh on board, he’s a guy we have been watching for quite a while now. Obviously it has taken time to get him over from France to meet us and do all the necessary tests, but once we got that done everything has moved pretty quickly and we believe he is going to be a very good, long-term addition to the club.
“He is a good age at 24, so it’s the right time for him to move here; he’s got a lot of assets that modern backs need – he’s strong, very quick and has an interesting background having played both rugby league and union – but now he has settled on the union path and he has been putting in some very good performance for Castres.
“He can play centre or on the wing, so he kind of fits very nicely in what we have here. We’ve got quite a few guys who can play multiple positions and I think Josh coming here will give us a real amount of strength right across our back line.”
Baxter added: “He’s been playing in the Top 14 this season, which is a tough division, and other than a short period when he was injured with a broken cheekbone, he’s been playing regularly for Castres in a tough competition. As I said, he’s got good pace, good hands, good vision, good defender – all the things you need when you are playing tough Premiership games.
“He will give us a lot of options for next season. He’s not just a smash it up the middle player, Josh is also quite creative and has the capabilities of playing a number of ways. We feel he is a good guy who is going to come and develop his game further in the Premiership. I think also it will be a lot easier for him to develop his game at an English speaking club. If anything has held him back in France, it’s probably the language barrier, but we’re very pleased to have him on board and seeing what he can bring to us.”