Aviva Premiership: Campagnaro can add ‘X-factor’ to Chiefs backline
Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter believes the 21-year-old Italian centre can add a lot to the club when he joins in the summer
Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter believes new signing Michele Campagnaro can help bring some additional ‘X-Factor’ to his side’s back division next season.
The 21-year-old centre will swap struggling Guinness PRO12 club Benetton Treviso for the Aviva Premiership and will head to Sandy Park in the summer on a two-year deal.
Anyone who has seen some international performances, you can see he has that ‘X-factor’.
Mirano-born Campagnaro is the latest Italian international to see his future in England’s top flight after an exodus from Treviso to the Premiership last summer that saw Leicester Tigers, Sale Sharks and Wasps all pick up a number of experienced players.
And Baxter believes the 13-times capped centre will be a good fit for his side as they continue to push for a place in the Premiership top four.
“Having watched him play for Treviso and Italy, a huge part of his game has been defending,” Baxter said.
“When you see him playing for Treviso in the [PRO12], he makes an awful lot of tackles. He is a very good and dependable tackler, which first and foremost makes him very selectable.
“You know you can put him in your backline and you know the opposition are not going to make many metres against you.
“On top of that, anyone who has seen some international performances, you can see he has that ‘X-factor’.
“He has those opportunities to start trying to step people and find a bit of space and he can be a very exciting runner.
“That has probably not developed as much as he would like due to a lack of ball-in-hand time, but when those opportunities do arise, he can be very dangerous.
“When you watch him you probably see a little bit of Jack Nowell movement about him when he looks to attack defenders. I think he is at the right age to develop for us as well, so he has a lot of the attributes to make him a very selectable.
“We also want to add to his game over an extended period. He got a medial knee injury but it is relatively minor and did not cause any issues.”
The Chiefs have already confirmed the acquisition of England lock Geoff Parling from Leicester Tigers and Bath wing/centre Olly Woodburn as part of their post-Rugby World Cup plans along with a number of current players extending their contracts with the West Country club.
Without doubt the Premiership is one of the most competitive leagues in Europe, so I’m really interested in challenging myself and trying to do my best
Campagnaro has been an important cog in the Azzurri backline since bursting on to the international scene with a barnstorming performance with two tries and a man of the match performance against Wales in last year’s RBS 6 Nations.
But he is expected to sit out the remainder of this year’s championship after picking up a knee injury in the 26-3 defeat to Ireland in Rome at the start of the month.
The injury should see Campagnaro back playing for Treviso for the end of the season and the player admits his excitement at a new playing experience when he swaps the Stadio Monigo for Sandy Park.
“I’m very excited and proud to be of the Chiefs,” Campagnaro said.
“At the moment, I’m trying to do my best and perform well with my current club, but at the same time I’m very impatient to start this new experience.
“Speaking to other Italian players who have played in England, I’ve managed to get a lot of positive impressions and it gave the confidence to take on what I think will be a great experience.”
Baxter expects Campagnaro to join up with his new team-mates at Sandy Park in the summer before heading off to the Italy camp ahead of the Rugby World Cup, which starts in September in England.
And the player already has some grounding in what the Chiefs are about, admitting he has become a supporter of the club in the last couple of years, and is ready for the rigorous demands of playing in a tough league.
“If you asked me three years ago about the Chiefs, I wouldn’t know what to answer about them,” he added.
“In the last two years, though, I followed the team a bit more closely and last season I started to support them.
“I’ve been attracted to them, especially by the style of the game imprinted by the coach.
“Also they have had some great results over the last year or so, so it’s all very exciting.
“Without doubt the Premiership is one of the most competitive leagues in Europe, so I’m really interested in challenging myself and trying to do my best,” he continued.
“Right now I’m not sure how I will approach the championship, but having seen the level I know I must put in a lot of commitment and a lot of work to try and bring something positive to the team.”