ACADEMY prop Kai Owen believes Chim Gale has left “very big shoes to fill” following his “shock” departure from Worcester Warriors.

Gale spent three years as Warriors’ academy manager which saw him bring through a strong crop of talented young players.

But Gale has decided to move on and is understood to be joining Harlequins to head up their youth set-up.

Owen said Gale brought “energy” to Warriors and admitted his exit was a “big loss” to the club who are now searching for his successor.

“Chim let me know the other day (that he was leaving) and it was a very big shock as I get on with him really well,” Owen said.

“He is a top bloke. He is always smiling and brings energy to the club.

“It is a big loss but I am sure someone else will come in and hopefully be just as good. I wish him all the best.”

Owen was released by Warriors when he was 17 but earned his place back in the club’s academy and is now representing England at the World Rugby Under 20 Championship in Argentina.

The promising 20-year-old who made his senior debut against Stade Francais in the European Challenge Cup last term said Gale had been key to his development.

“He has helped all the younger lads out,” Owen said.

“If you have got any problems you can talk to him.

“He always kept in contact with me which was nice and that is what you need.

“He will leave very big shoes to fill as he does his job really well.

“It will be interesting to see what happens now. But sometimes change is good.”

Gale joined Warriors’ academy 10 years ago as outreach coach before becoming assistant boss in May 2014 and then taking the top job in July 2016.

During his reign flanker Ted Hill, prop Joe Morris, fly-half Jamie Shillcock, wing Perry Humphreys, locks Justin Clegg and Andrew Kitchener and centres Will Butler and Ollie Lawrence have all made the transition to the senior squad.

Hill has also gone on to win a full England cap and his father Vince Hill said Gale played an instrumental role in getting his son to Warriors.

“I can clearly remember when Ted was around 13 or 14, playing for the North Midlands, and Chim approached him and asked whether he wanted to play a bit more rugby,” he said.

“After that Ted went into the academy and pushed on from there. Chim has been extremely supportive of Ted and been a really big asset to the club.

“You don’t always find people in rugby who are able to impart rugby knowledge but also have an idea of what makes young guys tick.

“Chim has both.

“Pete Walton has gone from the England set-up to Bristol Bears so they have done well to get his services.

“You will need someone like that to fill Chim’s shoes. It is not going to be easy.”

Mike Lawrence, father of Warriors centre Ollie Lawrence - who has made 17 first-team appearances - was also sad to see Gale depart.

“Chim has been phenomenal,” he said.

“He took Oliver on from when he was a junior and has developed him into a professional rugby player. When they made the selection for the boys that were going to go from the under 18s to the full (academy) squad Oliver was one of three and is the only one that remains from that group.

“Chim has been very instrumental so it is a big loss.”