After adding his name to the extensive list of players to commit to London Welsh, captain Matt Corker believes the club are building the foundations of a bright future out of a tough recent past.
The 32-year-old lock has signed on for his ninth season at the club next year, having made 223 appearances in all competitions for the Exiles since his debut in 2007.
With impressive recent Aviva Premiership Rugby debutant Darren Waters also penning a new deal, 15 members of the current squad have now re-committed to the Exiles alongside a host of new signings.
Following a difficult season in which they are guaranteed to finish bottom of Aviva Premiership Rugby, Corker admits this level of continuity will prove vital for the long-term future of his club.
And the former Wasp believes that having known their fate was sealed has helped his side play with more freedom in recent weeks and provided priceless experience to young players such as Waters and Chris Elder.
“This is a club that I love and I’m really grateful to them for giving me the chance to keep playing here and I’m excited for the future,” he said.
“It’s obviously been a tough year, but we’re looking forward to next season where we can push on and it’s massively important so many have signed up already and brilliant to give so many boys the experience of this year.
“These last couple of months we’ve really been going in the right direction against high-class opposition – we put ourselves in a fantastic position at half time against Leicester Tigers.
“But we a lot of pressure back on ourselves with the lineout problems and as a lineout guy I was especially disappointed, though we played some really positive rugby.
“When you’re struggling early on it’s difficult to give the young guys opportunities but now we know we’ll finish bottom, the pressure comes off and we can focus on our future goals as a club.
“It’s fantastic for those guys getting that chance and get Premiership experience, it’s really invaluable getting used to big games, you can’t really teach it, you just have to experience and learn it.”
Part of Corker’s new contract will also see him become Welsh’s lineout coach, with the second row eager to test himself out in that role before he turns his thoughts towards life after rugby.
“I’m really excited about becoming lineout coach, and I’m looking forward to working with forwards coach James Buckland and adding that extra leadership,” he added.
“On a personal level it’s great for my own development getting into the coaching side of things.
“I guess I’m in the winter of my career, hopefully it will be a long winter but I need to start thinking about life after rugby.
“I don’t know if it’s definitely what I want to do but it’s something I’m looking at and you don’t know until you try it.
“I’ve never kept a massive eye on how many games I would like to retire on as they limit you but it’s still a real privilege to play and always will be in every single game I have still to come.”
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