Phillips agrees new Exeter deal
James Phillips has committed his future to Exeter Chiefs by agreeing a new one-year contract at Sandy Park.
James Phillips says he wants to repay the faith Rob Baxter has shown in him by getting back to full fitness and becoming a key weapon in the Exeter Chiefs pack.
Alongside fellow forward Ben Moon, the 26-year-old forward has committed his future to the Devon club by agreeing a new one-year contract at Sandy Park.
Sidelined currently with a knee injury sustained in the home win over Saracens back in September, the Bristol-born No.8 is deep into his rehab programme and setting his sights on a return to action before the end of the current campaign.
However, with his current contract set to expire at the end of the season, Phillips says agreeing a new deal with the Chiefs is a welcome relief as he looks to get himself back amongst the action.
“It’s a massive relief because you are never always sure where you’re next contract is coming from," said Phillips, who joined in 2010 from his hometown club.
"It’s been another tough year for me – what with the injury – but I’m working hard to get back fit and once I’ve done that I want to repay the faith Rob has shown in me.
“To be at the Chiefs for another year is great news because it’s such a brilliant place to come and work. As a team we’ve come a long way in a short space of time, but the club is definitely moving in the right direction and I want to be part of that.
“I really enjoy being at the club and working with the boys and all the staff. My aim at the moment, though, is to get fit and hopefully I can get back before the end of the season. After that I just want to try and get myself established within the team again."
Having worked incredibly hard last year to get himself in tip-top condition for a big season ahead, Phillips was dealt an untimely blow when he was forced from the field against Saracens.
“The injury was gutting, I couldn’t believe it," he added. "I felt I was going well at the time, but then all of a sudden it all came to a bit of a halt [against Saracens]. As I said, I was gutted, especially as we were in the European Cup and that would have been a good experience for me."
Phillips is one of a number of current Chiefs who have sorted new terms with the club - and he says he is looking forward to working with so many familiar faces again next term.
He said: "I think we have a brilliant squad here and having so many of the boys around again next season will be great.”
Of course one man looking to harness the physicality and power of Phillips is head coach Baxter, who has spoken of his happiness at having the player on board for another year.
Baxter said: ““He’s been a popular member of the squad for quite a long time now and I think it’s important we keep that going and make sure he gets looked after.
“We want him playing for us, we want him to have his opportunities with us and we think he can be an important part of where we’re going moving forward.
“As I've said before, he’ll get a genuine crack at trying to start more Premiership games. The performance he was putting in against Saracens was holding him in good stead, he was doing what we wanted him to do which was carry hard and cross the gain line.
"He’s a big guy, a good ball carrier and, like I said, someone who can really challenge the gain line. I think we were really seeing that in his performance against Saracens when he had this injury.
“At the same time, he can also cover second row well, but we’re still pretty sure the best of him is still to come and that’s pretty important. There’s still a lot of improvement.
“The lad suffered quite a serious injury while playing for Exeter and we feel it’s down to us to bring him through that injury and give him an opportunity to play again.
“Hopefully he’ll come back fitter and stronger, as a lot of guys to from these types of injuries, and be playing that abrasive game again soon.”