Wales wing takes up Chiefs challenge
Wales wing takes up Chiefs challengeSHARE
After seven years with Cardiff Blues, Wales wing Tom James has decided to take up a new challenge by joining Exeter Chiefs.
The 25-year-old has agreed a two-year deal with the Premiership club and is Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter’s first signing for next season.
James’ capture will be seen as a massive boost to the Chiefs, who have already been hard at work tying down new deals for the likes of Brett Sturgess, Luke Arscott, Will Chudley, James Hanks, Carl Rimmer, Chris Whitehead and Phil Dollman in recent weeks.
With over 100 league and cup appearances and 39 tries for the Blues, James not only has a proven track record at club level, but also on the international stage where he has to date won ten caps for his country.
James says the opportunity of testing himself in a new environment was a key factor in his decision to swap rugby life at the Cardiff Blues for that with the ambitious Exeter Chiefs.
“Signing for Exeter Chiefs is a great move for me,” said James. “They are a team that I’ve watched come up to the Premiership over the last few years and do really well.
“I’ve had a fantastic seven years with the Blues and I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity to play for them and for the support I’ve been shown over my career.
“There are many highlights I’ve had, including winning the Energy and European Challenge Cups, but I felt the time was right for a fresh challenge.
“Exeter are clearly an ambitious club and having talked to the coaches about where they want to go and also the plans for the stadium, I felt I wanted to be a part of it all and experience something different.”
Although James has previously tackled English sides in both domestic and European Cup competitions, he says the opportunity of facing the elite of the European Premiership on a weekly basis is something he is keen to experience.
“I’ve spent most of my career playing in the Pro12, but I think playing in the Premiership will definitely challenge me in different ways. It’s an incredibly tough division and the intensity you can see is there every week.
“As I said, I’ve watched Exeter come up into the division and I like the style of attacking rugby they play. They’ve shown not just this season, but also last year as well, that they can compete with all the top sides.
“This year they were put in a tough European Cup group, yet they beat the Scarlets home and away, and they gave both Leinster and Clermont a run for their money as well, so I’m looking forward to being a part of it all.”
Although James has not featured for Wales since November 2010, the Rhymney Valley-born back says he still harbours hopes of playing on the international stage.
“I’ve not really set myself any real aims as yet, all I want to do initially is settle in, try and get myself in the team, and look to score some tries. Of course I would love to play for Wales again, but to do that you need to be playing well for your club and that will be the main objective for me.”
And James is aware he will have a couple of friendly faces already in the Chiefs camp to welcome him into life at Sandy Park. Flank Ben White is a former Blues’ team mate of his, whilst prop Craig Mitchell was on the same Welsh tour as him back in 2009.
Talking about the signing, Baxter said his new recruit will help offer additional firepower to his attacking arsenal for next season.
“Obviously we are delighted to have got Tom on board,” said Baxter. “Each year what you have to try and do is progress and move forward as a squad. We’ve had a good look at Tom over a period of time and for us it’s difficult to ignore proven try-scorers, who have got a very good ability to break the gain line.
“One of Tom’s biggest attributes is his ability to beat that first tackle from almost any scenario and I think that is the biggest qualities you need when you come up against big, strong defences.
“He is a very professional trainer, he’s in exceptionally good physical nick; he’s incredibly quick and, as I said, he has a great ability to beat the first defence and those are key attributes for us.”
Cardiff Blues Director of Rugby Phil Davies commented, “It has been a pleasure to work with Tom over the past eight months.
“He takes a very professional approach to his training and conditioning and has been a real asset to the team over a number of years and to me personally this season.
“However, we understand his reasons for leaving and wanting to face a fresh challenge and we wish him the best of luck with his rugby career at Exeter Chiefs.