Welch content to stay a Chief
Welch content to stay a ChiefSHARE
Damian Welch said his decision to stay with Exeter Chiefs was effectively a "no-brainer" after he sealed a new two-year deal at the Premiership club.
Signed ahead of the 2011/12 season from Welsh region Scarlets, the 31-year-old has settled well to life in the West country and has installed himself as a senior figure within Rob Baxter's first-team squad.
With 30 appearances and six tries already to his name, Welch is determined to build on what has been a solid start to life at Sandy Park for the towering second-row forward.
"I've loved being here since I got here," he said. "It's a great atmosphere, a great group of lads and great coaches. It was a pretty easy decision to make when you're told they want to keep you on ? it's a no brainer.
"It's definitely somewhere I've enjoyed being and hopefully somewhere I can enjoy being for another couple of years at least."
Welch is the latest Chief – following the likes of Jack Yeandle, Ian Whitten, Dean Mumm and Tom Johnson – to commit his future to the ambitious Devon club, who currently sit sixth in the Premiership standings.
And for the Reading-born forward getting his new deal done and dusted so early means he can now focus fully on helping Exeter to target a potential top four spot.
Welch added: "It's good to get it done early, especially when it's something you want to happen. "It's been a good thing to get off my mind, in that I know where I'm going to be for the next two years.
"It's been a good couple of years, with the back end of last year and the start of this year so far. I'm pretty happy with where I'm at and it's a good place to be to try to push yourself on."
With the Chiefs showing their ambition – on and off the field – Welch believes an exciting future lies in wait for those in and around Sandy Park.
"It puts it in perspective when you realise where this club has come from in such a short space of time and where it's going to be going in another short space of time," continued Welch. "It shows you what can be achieved with a group of guys who are all heading in the same direction.
"The stuff we have seen for the stadium is very impressive and what's good is it's matched by the ambition on the field as well. Both sides are working in tandem, which will be a good thing for the Chiefs."
As well as exciting plans off the field, on-field matters also dominate the thoughts of Welch, who feels he has improved significantly since swapping life in the Pro12 for that of the Premiership.
"One of the reasons I came here was because I wanted to get some game time at a good club. It seems to be going in the right direction at the moment," he said. "The way the Chiefs play obviously suits me a lot with the running style we like to play.
"The brand of rugby we've got is very exciting and it's one that I like to think I can add to and one I like to try to get involved with. From that point of view it's been great for me and it's been good to get into the team and stay there. It's been a great few months."
All the time, however, Welch is aware the competition for places within Baxter's starting XV is helping to drive up standards across the board.
"All you've got to do is look at Dean Mumm stood next to you and the vast amount of experience and talent he's got," he said. "Then you look at Hanksy on the bench, Romana Graham hasn't even played a Premiership game yet – it shows what a strong area of resources we have got in the lock position.
"There are plenty of boys who can play there and can play good games, so you can't afford to slack off for a second because if you do you know the next person will be working doubly hard to overtake you.
"It's a great area of competition for us at the moment, we're doing pretty well in the back row and second row so it makes you want to make further effort. At the moment it's great to be in charge of the shirt."
Welch added: "My focus and concentration is trying to push as far as I can with the Chiefs. This year we're lying sixth at the moment, it would be nice to push us up the table a couple of places or at least finish better than we did last year.
"I want to be involved in some of those big games at the end of the season. We played at Twickenham last week and it whets the appetite for pushing on for the games that actually mean a lot."