Exiled star '100% happy' with decision to quit Welsh rugby but has not given up on Wales dream

-Credit: (Image: Getty Images)
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images)


Exeter Chiefs' Joe Hawkins has said he's totally happy with his decision to leave Welsh rugby, but admits he still harbours ambitions of pulling on the Wales jersey again.

The 21-year-old burst on to the scene with his first Wales cap in November 2022 and played four more games in the Six Nations last year. However, he left the Ospreys for Sandy Park at the start of this season and, given he fell under the 25-cap threshold, left his Test career behind.

The decision to move across the Severn Bridge was made during a period of turmoil in Welsh rugby, with funding slashed and players unsure about their futures.

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Despite not being eligible for Wales, though, Hawkins is content with his choice to leave, although of course it wasn't an easy decision for him.

“I’m 100% happy with my decision,” he told Sportin Wales. “I understand that playing for Wales is a huge thing and it was something I loved doing and I’d love to still be doing it, I think everyone would.

“It was a decision for my personal development as a player but as a person as well, moving away from home, if I’d have stayed in Wales that wouldn’t have been the case.

“I’m still young so whether the 25 cap rule stays or goes, hopefully one day I’ll play for Wales again, but at this moment in time I’m happy focusing on Exeter and establishing myself down here and getting better.

“I wasn’t surprised when Daf was asked to be captain in the Six Nations and I knew going into it he wouldn’t let anyone down because that’s just the type of guy he is.”

Warren Gatland has a problem at fly-half, with neither Sam Costelow nor Ioan Lloyd really grabbing their opportunities in the most recent Six Nations campaign.

Hawkins possesses the footballing ability to occupy the 10 shirt, but he believes his best position is in midfield, which is where he's played his rugby for Rob Baxter's side this year.

“Definitely at the minute I see myself as a 12, I played outside-half growing up at Pontardawe and loved it,” he added.

“There was a bit of chat about me being a 10 long term and I’d certainly be open to that, but I see myself as a 12 who can play 10 rather than vice versa.

“But it all helps. If I play 10 then I understand what my centres need of me or if I play 12, I know what my 10 needs from me, so there’s a lot of crossover.”

It's likely a huge compliment that Hawkins' international future remains a big talking point among Welsh rugby supporters.

Hawkins showcased his ability with the Ospreys, and in his fleeting five appearances for Wales, with fans desperate to see him represent the country again.

But he insists he has made the right decision for himself, despite being unable to completely block out all the external noise on social media and the like.

“You obviously see things, regardless of what players say, everyone sees things,” the centre said of social media discussions surrounding his international future.

“You have to pay no notice to it because no one knows the full story. The only people who know my circumstances or the scenario are me and my family and the average supporter doesn’t know the ins and outs even though a lot of them like to think they do.

“You have to take people’s opinions with a pinch of salt.”