Wales’ Joe Hawkins faces uncertain international future following Exeter switch
Wales centre Joe Hawkins faces an uncertain international future after signing for Gallagher Premiership club Exeter.
The 20-year-old Ospreys player has won five caps for his country and was a key part of Warren Gatland’s recent Guinness Six Nations campaign.
But players plying their trade outside Wales must have won a minimum of 25 caps to be available for national squad selection.
It is understood that Hawkins, whose Exeter contract starts officially on July 1, will not link up with the Chiefs until after the World Cup in September and October if selected by Gatland.
Wales’ previous selection policy for exiled players of 60 caps had dispensation clauses, but it is unclear whether the revised version contains any.
Hawkins could be available for the World Cup, which starts in September, but he would not be eligible after the tournament as things currently stand.
Gatland spoke highly of Hawkins during the Six Nations, and he is among the Welsh game’s hottest prospects, so it is potentially a major blow for the Wales head coach.
Ospreys were eager to retain his services, but Hawkins has instead opted to join former pathway team-mates Oli Burrows, Dafydd Jenkins, Dan John and Christ Tshiunza at the Chiefs.
Speaking after the move was announced, Hawkins hailed Exeter’s ambition.
“It’s a new challenge for me and something a bit different, especially moving away from my home region, who I will always be thankful to for giving me the playing opportunities that I’ve had up until now,” he said.
“That said, it does feel a home away from home, especially with all the Welsh boys that are down there already.
“I’ve spoken to a few of them and they’ve told me plenty of good things about the club and the culture that exists down there. Also, chatting with Rob (Baxter, director of rugby) and Ali (Hepher, head coach).
“I liked what they had to say about how they want to play and how they want to create a new team capable of challenging at the very top. That really appealed to me, I wanted to be part of it, and I wanted to be there at the start of this journey.”
Baxter added: “Joe ticks pretty much every box that we look for in a player, and I’ve no doubt he is going to be a great addition to the squad.
“Like any player, we feel there are areas of his game that can be further developed, but he is someone who we are genuinely excited about.”
Ospreys head coach Toby Booth admitted frustration at not being able to retain Hawkins.
“Obviously, it is a disappointment to lose Joe. He is a player that we have spent a lot of time developing over the last two years,” Booth said.
“A big focus of what we are trying to do is to keep our young talented Welsh players, but sometimes this is not possible.”
Exeter have also announced the signing of Hawkins’ Ospreys colleague Ethan Roots.
The 25-year-old New Zealander has excelled in Ospreys’ back-row this season, and he will help offset the departures of Chiefs flanker Dave Ewers and number eight Sam Simmonds to Ulster and Montpellier, respectively.