Jack Nowell hails 'UNBELIEVABLE' La Rochelle ahead of expected move

Jack Nowell hails ‘UNBELIEVABLE’ La Rochelle ahead of his expected move to the French giants this summer – and explains leaving Exeter is one of the ‘hardest positions he’s ever been in’

  • Jack Nowell has revealed the reasons behind his expected move to La Rochelle
  • The Exeter winger is set to leave his boyhood club for the French giants
  • Nowell explained that he wants to experience a new challenge in France 

Jack Nowell still can’t actually confirm that he’s moving to La Rochelle, but after his beloved Exeter were knocked out of the Champions Cup by the French giants, the England wing explained – unofficially – why he is switching sides.

If you can’t beat them, join them. The 30-year-old has signed up for a place in the cross-Channel exodus knowing that he will join a stellar squad capable of challenging for more titles, in the Top 14 league and in what, until recently, was the European Cup. 

La Rochelle are the holders of the latter prize and they have reached a third consecutive final after routing Nowell and his fellow Chiefs 47-28 in Bordeaux on Sunday afternoon.

Having captained Exeter in that era-ending occasion – as they were consigned to semi-final defeat before a mass of summer player departures – Nowell was asked how his team-mates reacted when he told them he was becoming a ‘Rochelais’. ‘I’ve still not told them,’ he said, laughing.

‘Everything has happened quite late. I’ve never actually officially said it yet, but obviously there are rumours. My focus was on finishing well for this club and ideally getting to this Heineken Cup Final and another Premiership Final, but it hasn’t happened quite how I wanted.’

Jack Nowell is expected to leave his boyhood club the Exeter Chiefs in the summer

Nowell (left on floor) is set to join French giants La Rochelle at the end of the season

Nowell described La Rochelle as an ‘unbelievable’ club after Exeter’s recent defeat there

The scenes at the packed, futuristic Mahmut Atlantique Stadium illustrated part of the appeal for Nowell as 40,000 raucous French fans roared Ronan O’Gara’s champions to another emphatic win over English opposition. 

The yellow flag and flare-wielding hordes fill their own ground for every single home game and bring a partisan fervour which is unsurpassed in France or anywhere else.

‘It is unbelievable,’ said Nowell. ‘La Rochelle are known for their fans and for their support. Even coming in on the bus, the yellow flags were unbelievable. They are certainly doing it right over here. That helps.’

However, there were various factors he had to consider before reluctantly deciding to leave the club where he came through the ranks, amid an array of home-grown talent, as Exeter enjoyed their golden age of domestic and continental glory. Financial considerations could not be ignored.

‘Deciding to leave Chiefs was one of the hardest positions I’ve ever been in,’ he said. ‘During the Covid times, the club decided to look after us and our families and like we are seeing with every Premiership club, there comes a time when wage does come into it. A lot of the other clubs got hit during Covid and for us as a club, we are being hit now.

‘I have got a growing family and I have got to put them first. That is what made it so hard to leave Chiefs; how much I love the club, I love the coaches, I love everything about it but, I’ve got to look after my family. My family is growing and for me it was my time to take that pay cut then. Was it the right time for my family? Certainly not.’

There was another significant factor. Nowell has an adventurous streak in him and he craved the chance to leave his comfort zone and tackle something new and different.

‘There does come a time for me and my family where we were very keen to experience something else,’ he said. ‘I am quite an open person; I like to get my family out and experience different things. 

‘Exeter is all I know so to come and experience something else… if I come to La Rochelle or not… is going to be unbelievable.’ A coastal destination was non-negotiable. ‘As much as I would love to be in Paris, I love the sea,’ he added.

Nowell (middle butterfly tattoo on leg) admitted leaving Exeter is the right decision for his family

Nowell admitted moving to the French side is the right decision for his ‘growing’ family

The England winger further explained that deciding not to stay at Exeter was ‘one of the hardest decisions’ he’s ever been in

He is desperate to play at London Irish on Saturday, to strive for a win which would end his long man-and-boy stint at Sandy Park on a high note. But for Nowell, there have been so many great days, medals and memories. He is profoundly grateful.

So what does the club mean to him? ‘It’s been everything,’ he said. ‘It’s all I know. I’ve obviously experienced England stuff, but this is all I’ve known since the age of 16. It’s been unbelievable for me and my family. I came to Exeter at 16 as a young kid and I’ll be leaving with three children and a wife. It’s not been a bad 12 years!

‘I’ll look back on what we have achieved with this team in terms of Premierships and Heineken Cups. As a kid you can only dream about stuff like that. My main memory is winning the Premiership for the first time, when we did and the way we did it. 

‘That was the first proper trophy we’d won for the club and that’s a memory that I’ll never forget.’

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