Wales’ Joe Hawkins faces uncertain international future following Exeter switch

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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.

Warren Gatland
Wales head coach Warren Gatland could lose Joe Hawkins from his plans (David Davies/PA)

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 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.

Joe Hawkins
Joie Hawkins in action for Wales during his Test debut against Australia (David Davies/PA)

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.

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