Exeter Chiefs prop Josh Iosefa-Scott is relishing in the physical challenge, brought about in the English West Country. Born and raised in New Zealand, the tight-head is a long way from home but is in fact eligible to represent England, as his father was born in London.
Arriving at Sandy Park ahead of the 2021/22 Premiership season, Iosefa-Scott previously represented Waikato and the Highlanders, across New Zealand’s Provincial and Super Rugby competitions. The 27-year-old has been firing for the Chiefs so far this season, with four tries in all competitions throughout the 2023/24 campaign, adding his latest score to secure the win over Newcastle Falcons last weekend.
Speaking in the mid-week media ahead of Exeter’s match against Bath, Iosefa-Scott praised his teammates in helping him get this hot start to the season, that is a far cry from rugby in his homeland.
“It’s probably the other lads doing most of the work. Most of my tries, if you combine the total meters I’ve probably got like, a metre for each try so. Four tries for a total of four meters carried, but honestly, it’s probably more the work in and around the area. We’ve been doing a lot of work around the 5m. When the rule of things had changed, we kind of had a backward step there, where we didn’t convert as many, and now I think we’ve turned into a bit of a weapon. You see a lot more of our tries coming from that pick and go area.
“Yeah, like obviously I’m a big human, the old weight comes comes in handy in the area. So, honestly, there’s guys like Jacques (Vermeulen), ‘Rootsy’ (Ethan Roots), Rus (Tuima), all big men, Ethan Painter has gotten over for a couple of so, I think there’s a lot of capable people it’s just getting the structure in place to be able to execute it.”
“The rugby here is just in general. It’s just more physical, I think a lot more close quarter contact. A lot more bigger bodies here, I feel. And I think the weather has a lot to play in that as well. So, back home it’s a lot more dry, a lot more open rugby, whereas here is very structured and like I said, very close quarters.”
The Chiefs make the trip up to the Recreation Ground for this Saturday’s fixture, in a top four battle between two of the league’s early flyers. The last meeting between Exeter and Bath came in the closing pool stage of the Premiership Rugby Cup, which saw Bath record an impressive 34-14 victory. Iosefa-Scott’s opposite man for the weekend will likely be Thomas du Toit, who impressed the blue, black and white faithful by swapping from tight to loose-head in their defeat to Sale Sharks last weekend.
“It’s very, very difficult. There’s not many players that can do it (play on both props).” Iosefa-Scott added. I had a go at it and didn’t do very well at it last season. But, full credit to the lads that can do it, because you know it’s pretty foreign for me going from one side to the other.”
“They’ve (Bath) obviously have got a good set-piece, scrum and maul. They’ve got some pretty electric backs out there as well, with Finn Russell leading the charge in the middle lane, leading them around the field.
“We’ve struggled there (the Rec), in the last few seasons, last couple of seasons. So I think now there’s a bit around going down there, to kind of make up for the past wrongs.”
The softly spoken hard-hitter can see plenty of similarities and differences between Devon, and the land known as Aotearoa. The tight-head believes that the surrounding countryside and luscious greenery of the South West resembles that of his homeland, but sees few on field similarities between the New Zealand and West Country styles of rugby.
Iosefa-Scott witnessed the mass exodus of players depart Sandy Park in the Summer, and is one of the few remaining faces from the last ‘era’ of Exeter rugby. Iosefa-Scott stayed put, whilst the likes of Jack Nowell, Dave Ewers, Harry Williams and Joe and Sam Simmonds all said their farewells to the Exeter faithful. The Chiefs have been off to a hot start with this fresh side, with new-coming talents such as Ethan Roots, Ross Vincent and Joe Hawkins taking centre stage. Iosefa-Scott is excited by the trajectory of this new squad.
“So far with the new lads coming in, and the new group we’ve got, I think we’ve made quite a lot of new changes and especially around set-piece with Ross (Vincent) coming in we’re making some leaps and bounds in that area. And I think that’s what’s helped us be able to play a new style, and a new brand of rugby that we are playing at the moment.”
“The guys that are still around, you know, they’re good leaders and they’e never above anyone else and they always try and make everyone feel welcome so, I think that dynamic in the changing room is is pretty similar, and I think a lot of people that have come and gone will probably say the same, that we try and keep it pretty much the same.”