Rob Baxter denies Joe Hawkins rumours and feels the lowering of Welsh Rugby's 60-cap law won't have "an immedie effect"

Rob Baxter has had his say on rumours suggesting Exeter will sign Wales centre Joe Hawkins

Rob Baxter has poured cold water on rumours that his Exeter Chiefs side will be signing talented Welsh centre Joe Hawkins.

Emphatically putting down the chances of Hawkins heading to the West Country, he said: “I don't know where the rumour has come from, and I don't know where it's started, but right here and now there's no truth in it.”

It had been reported over the past week that the coveted star, potentially the crown jewel of Welsh region Ospreys, had signed for the 2020 European Champions.

“I've watched and had a look at Joe many times," said Baxter. Obviously, he played in the same U20s team with Daf (Dafydd Jenkins) so when we were spending a lot of time with Daf before we signed him, I saw him then.

“Daf had also mentioned to me personally that he's a good player. I've watched him play many times for Ospreys and watched him in the Welsh games.”

However, he went on to say: "Watching a player to see them play, and sitting down with them, making contract offers and signing them are worlds apart.”

Baxter was speaking to the media ahead of his side’s game against Sale Sharks in the battle for Gallagher Premiership play-off spots, but as with rugby as a whole at the moment, plenty of the talk centred around the recent Welsh contract dispute.

It came to a head on Wednesday afternoon as the WRU were forced to cave and change their agreement with the players union and amend long-standing rules. An example of this is the ‘60-cap’ law, which states that any player must have 60 caps for Wales before he is permitted to play for his country if employed by a foreign club.

Baxter, though, doesn’t see it as something that will immediately affect players.

“I actually don’t think on the face of it it's going to change the Welsh availability market all that much for two to three seasons," Baxter said.

"I don't see it having a big effect right here and now. People in Wales will turn around and say that I'm talking rubbish, but I'm not seeing huge numbers of names being talked about and it making a huge difference. I think it's only opened up two to three additional players to Wales, and I don't think it's massively going to open up the market of players leaving Wales at this stage.”

He did, however, admit that it could cause a decision later down the line for young talents of the Welsh national team who do not manage to hit 25 caps before they finish their contract, whether it be with a foreign team (often English) or with one of the four regions.

His Chiefs side are currently the home of Christ Tshiunza (age: 21, caps: four) and Dafydd Jenkins (age: 20, caps: three), although they have lost players – like Tomas Francis – to regions in recent years.

“Potentially, if things go well for Daf and Christ over the next few years, they may never have to worry about that scenario. "They may collect those caps and just carry on making their own choices about where they play their rugby so it could be good for them from our perspective. The young Welsh lads will have a decision on where to ply their trade now but anybody just breaking into the team is going to take a little while to get to 25 caps anyway.”

Both Tshiunza and Jenkins have been named in the Wales 23 to take on England this weekend, with Tshiunza selected to start on the blindside flank, and Jenkins on the bench. Exeter back Henry Slade will line up against them as England’s outside centre.