Joe Batley admits the chance to join Leicester Tigers and test himself at the “highest level” of the game was too good an opportunity to turn down.
The utility-forward, comfortable in the second row or back-row, joins the Tigers on loan from Bristol Bears as injury-cover for Hanro Liebenberg, who is out of action for an extended period with an ankle injury.
Batley rose through the ranks of Gloucester’s academy programme as a youngster, gaining selection for England Under-18 and Under-20s along the way, before making the switch to Bristol in 2017 and – more recently – spending time on loan at Hartpury in The Championship.
Speaking to LeicesterTigers.com on Monday morning, shortly after arriving in the East Midlands, the 23-year-old was excited to begin the next chapter in his rugby story.
“I‘ve been on loan at Hartpury for the last few weeks and enjoying it, it’s a great place,” said Batley
“Then, Pat [Lam] rang me and said there’s an opportunity at Leicester and asked if I would I be interested.
“Obviously, immediately I was very keen … growing up, Leicester was the dominant force everywhere and the opportunity to come to such a great club was one I couldn’t turn down.”
With only nine appearances to his name in two seasons with the Bears, the aspiration Batley admitted the opportunity to push for a place in a Premiership side was an additional motivating factor alongside the chance to wear the Tigers badge.
“Personally, I’ve loved my time at Hartpury and enjoyed playing in the Championship but, it’s not what I want to be doing,” he said.
“I want to get as far as I can in the game and playing in the Premiership more consistently is the way to go about that.
“I’ve got big aims I want to try and achieve, that can only come from playing at the highest level.”
When asked of what Tigers supporters can expect from the 6’7” and 120kg forward, besides an obvious physical presence in the pack, Batley said: “I just want to perform the best that I can and, hopefully, break into the team and then stay there for as long as I can.”
“I want to do well, play consistency in the Prem … it’s all exciting and I’m looking forward to the challenges ahead.”
One of those challenges is an immediate test, less than 12 hours after first arriving at the club’s Oval Park training ground, in the club’s Premiership Rugby Shield showdown with Sale Jets this evening.
After getting a tour of ‘OP’ and receiving his new kit, Batley boarded a bus north to Heywood Road for the development fixture where he has been included on the bench.
Speaking about the early exposure to rugby in Tigers colours, Batley was upbeat about the opportunity to show the coaching staff and his new team-mates what he was capable of.
“A little bit of rugby straight away, it’s good,” he said.
“The Premiership Shield is a great competition and it’s a good way to show yourself and what you’re capable of.
“It’s been great meeting the lads today and I’m looking forward to showing them what I can do.”
Thankfully, the new kid on the block wasn’t a stranger to all of his new team-mates when he arrived on Monday morning after previously working with a handful of current Tigers in the form international quartet Jonny May and Sione Kalamafoni in Gloucester, as well as Gaston Cortes and Ellis Genge in Bristol.
"The opportunity to come to such a great club was one I couldn’t turn down"
The latter, affectionately known as the Baby Rhino to Tigers supporters, even captained Batley in the early days of both their careers at Hartpury College, which the new Leiceste recruit alluded to being an interesting experience.
“Gengey was actually my captain at college when I first arrived at Hartpury,” said Batley.
“I won’t go into much more detail about that … but hopefully he’s a bit nicer to me now than when I was a first year and he was a second year.
“Nah, seriously thought he’s a great lad and it’s good to be back with him again.
“Just knowing a few faces to say hello to is nice and helps get the foot in the door a bit easier on the first day.”
One man Batley only met for the first time today was Tigers head coach Geordan Murphy, albeit only briefly due to his Premiership Shield commitments, and the young lock admits he’s hopeful of impressing his new boss in his first outing away to Sale.
“Just a brief hello today, nothing much,” respond Batley to a question about what Murphy had said to him so far.
“It’s very early days and we’ll see how we go tonight at Sale and, mostly, I’m just looking forward to getting my hands on the ball and playing for Tigers to show him and the coaches what I can do.”