Rob Baxter has spoken of his delight after three more of his current Exeter Chiefs squad today agreed new contracts with the Aviva Premiership club.
Experienced back-row forwards Kai Horstmann and Julian Salvi have each signed new one-year deals, while lock Ollie Atkins has extended his stay at Sandy Park by a further two years.
News of the trio agreeing terms comes hot on the heels of head coach Baxter last week confirming similar outcomes for front-row trio Ben Moon, Shaun Malton and Carl Rimmer, as well as backs Michele Campagnaro, Phil Dollman and Olly Woodburn.
Now with nine more names confirmed to the Chiefs roster for the 2017/18 season, Baxter admits the make-up of his squad is already in fine fettle, having also added newcomers Matt Kvesic, Toby Salmon and Tom O’Flaherty so far.
Talking about the new contracts, Baxter said: “It’s fantastic to have all three guys with us again next season. All of them have played different parts for us over the last few years and have been part and parcel of helping move the club forward.
“In the case of Ollie, he’s played probably a bit less rugby than the other guys, but we see huge potential in him. He’s a very good guy to have in and around the place, he’s popular within the squad and he’s filled in and played well for us whenever we’ve asked him to.
“We’re delighted to extend him because we see a lot of good stuff coming through him and he’s the kind of guy with the potential that as we move into the next couple of years, we believe he will real challenge for that starting spot and look to drive us forward.
“I know he’s had some patchy game time with us, but that can be the case when you are in the early stages of being at a club. The longer he’s with us, the more he will establish himself and that is when your momentum comes over a period of time. That’s what we see with Ollie.”
Baxter continued: “It slightly different for the others guys, but we’ve seen Jules come in and have an immediate impact with us. His first season here he’s part of a side that got to a Premiership final, he played the majority of the games so that’s some impact for us.
“He’s been unfortunate this year picking up the serious bicep injury, which has hampered him a little bit, but now he’s fit again and he’s the biggest pain in the backside out in training because he’s angry and wants to play, quite rightly so.
“There are plenty of games left this season for him to have opportunities with us, so for me it was a no-brainer to offer him an extension because he’s been an important player for us. I think he’s one of those guys who is very self-driven, very motivated and keeps the quality of what we do very high.”
Completing the trio, Baxter joked of Horstmann: “It’s incredible a man that old can still be a good Premiership player, but he is and he keeps delivering all the time. He’s not been given a contract as a pat on the back and say ‘thanks, you’ve been really good for us for a few years’.
“He’s got a contract because he merits being in our squad and he merits his position. He’s a good guy around the club, immensely popular, but the truth is he’s playing very well and featured in some very big games for us. Again, it wasn’t a difficult decision to try and get him to stay.”
As for any more potential newcomers, Baxter said: “There is always stuff in the pipeline. We work extremely hard and we act diligently on any new signings that we make. A lot of the people we talk to are not necessarily people who suddenly make themselves available, the higher the profile of the player, the longer the process takes.
“There is still the potential for us to announce a couple more signings, but as I said if we didn’t sign anyone or we didn’t announce anybody else, I’d be pretty happy with where we are.”