Exeter skipper seals new deal
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Club captain Jack Yeandle heads up a list of four Exeter Chiefs players who have penned new deals with the Premiership champions.
The 28-year-old hooker, together with fellow front-row forwards Greg Holmes, Elvis Taione and Harry Williams, have become the latest squad members to commit their futures to the Chiefs.
Yeandle has signed a new three-year deal keeping him at Sandy Park until 2021, while international trio Holmes, Taione and Williams have all agreed two-year deals.
The confirmation of the quartet signing on comes in the same week as club-mates Gareth Steenson, Ian Whitten and Mitch Lees also announced they too were extending their own Chiefs’ careers.
Naturally, Baxter is delighted all four players are hanging around for the foreseeable future. He said: "If anybody has seen how we have built over a number of years, where we have pushed, and what has helped us be more successful in the Premiership has been having a great foundation around that forward platform and what they can deliver.
"Rob Hunter has done a fantastic job over the last number of years, our forward play has improved year upon year, not just around scrum and set-piece which I know a lot of people talk about, but also the attributes these guys show around the field.
"It’s all very well having big guys who can scrummage and maul, but actually they have all shown they have great ability all around the field when they are playing multi-phase and they are all great defenders as well.
"What we like to think is that they have all worked really hard on the little details of their game that in turn help make our overall game stick together. Primarily they have a huge role to play in our set-piece, but they have a huge role in our attack and defence systems. They all perform them very well and we’re delighted they are all hanging around the place for the next few years at least,"
Aside from Aussie international Holmes, who joined from the Queensland Reds in the summer of 2016, Baxter has in recent years raided the Championship to acquire the services of the Taione, Williams and Yeandle, all of whom have made the step up to English rugby’s top tier looked easy.
Yeandle has amassed over 100 Premiership appearances for the Chiefs, whilst Williams has underlined his emergence in the past 12 months by not only establishing himself as a key cog in the Exeter front-row, but also on the international stage where he has featured in the last five Test matches for England.
"Harry has come up from the Championship and worked very hard," added Baxter. "Quite deservedly, because he’s been prepared to work very hard and been successful, he’s moved into the England EPS squad. Those are the kind of things we love to see amongst our players.
"You look at Greg and how hard he works with the other props and how he works with our young players, here is a guy you can see is desperate to pass on all his knowledge while still playing at a very high level.
"He’s the guy who has probably been the most unfortunate in terms of game time because he’s played very well for us, but he’s ended up at a club where we have three other international tight-heads all in the squad. That said, he’s still a very important member of the squad and gives us great strength in that front-row.
"As for Elvis, he’s a guy who we think is still improving. He’s really got his head down in the last 18 months, worked very hard, his conditioning is improving all the time. He’s not someone who is just seeing out contract time, he’s still desperate to play and he comes in on a regular basis and never lets us down.
"Finally, Jack’s a local guy who has come back to the area having been away at university first and then with his first senior club in Doncaster. Again, I think he has been a key guy in helping drive the culture we have here. He works hard, he doesn’t let anyone rest on their laurels and he makes sure we push through the key attributes of what the squad is all about.
"As I said, I am delighted all four of them are here again because they are cornerstones of what we want to achieve as a forward pack,"