Taunton Titans have pulled off an incredible piece of business by signing former Exeter and Saracens forward Joel Conlon, writes Ollie Young.
The 26 year-old, who also won the under-20’s World Cup with England scoring a try in the final, previously had to step away from rugby due to a neck injury but will be playing for the Titans this season.
The Taunton-born back rower came through the youth section at the club and has received the green light from doctors to resume his playing career.
Speaking exclusively to The Independent, head coach Tony Yapp said: “We are over the moon to have Joel back and it’s a feather in the cap for us and an indication of where the club is at the moment.
“He is involved with the club even when he’s not playing, he still pops in and has a beer and he’s always had Taunton in his heart.
“He basically is of the view that if he isn’t playing professional rugby, he wouldn’t want to be elsewhere and he’s buzzing to be at his home club. He is very humble, down to earth and we are looking forward to working with him.”
Yapp has predicted that Conlon’s presence on the squad will have a effect similar to the boost that Julian Salvi had when he turned out for the Towergate Stadium outfit.
“It isn’t just the quality Joel brings on the field, it is what he brings to us off the field, and he is a top guy who knows a lot of the boys already and he will fit in seamlessly,” he said.
“With someone like him coming in, you are going to get the best out of players, it’s been the same when Julian has played for us, you can sense there is a bit of energy around and Joel will have the same effect.”
Yapp, who made 173 appearances for the Chiefs himself during his playing career, believes that a successful spell in Taunton could see clubs wanting to sign Conlon.
He added: “I am fully aware of how fortunate we are to get him and I know when people see he’s fit and back playing, he will have offers on the table.”
Elsewhere, Yapp has added four Chiefs’ youngsters to his squad as they gear up for their National League One season. Charlie Wright, Dan Southworth, Harry Hocking and Matt Johnson will all spend time at the club as they look to gain senior experience. Yapp praised the impact that the Chiefs academy can have on his squad.
He said: “The professionalism they bring with them is great for the other players and also the competition for places they bring is important, they’ll come in and work hard and be part of the squad.”
The 42 year-old is under no illusion at the challenge that lies ahead in National League One.
He disclosed: “If you look at the league, it’s an unforgiving one and we are well aware if we don’t turn up to games, we could get beaten quite comfortably.
“We want to create a squad that can win games and is difficult to beat. I want more than just to avoid relegation next season, we are setting our stool out to finish mid table.
“We don’t want to shout about it because we don’t want a target on our backs but if we just try and avoid relegation, it creates a mind-set that it’s okay to lose a couple of games. I want us to be focusing on looking up the table and not down it.”