Tomas Francis has become the latest Exeter Chief to put pen to paper on a new contract following in the footsteps of teammates Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jack Nowell and Henry Slade.
The York-born forward, who has won 14 caps for Wales, including five in last autumn’s World Cup, has agreed a deal that will see him stay at Sandy Park until the end of the 2018-19 Aviva Premiership Rugby season.
Tight-head prop will be a hugely competitive area of the squad for Exeter this coming season with Francis, signed from Championship outfit London Scottish, facing competition from Australian international Greg Holmes, Scotland international Moray Low, the highly-rated Harry Williams and Carl Rimmer for a regular starting spot.
Head coach Rob Baxter said: “In Tom’s last contract, the club had a clause in there that we could extend the contract if certain terms were met, and we have decided to go with that, and have extended his deal by a further two years beyond the end of the 2016-17 season.
“I know he is delighted with that, and we are obviously very pleased that a player who came to us from the Championship and has been with us for a couple of seasons now sees his long-term future with us, and hopefully we can help keep developing him as not only a Premiership and European quality player, but also as an international.
“Once you get hold of a good player and you start working with them, you are investing in them all the time, and the way you get that investment back is if those players stay around.
“It was an easy call for us, and hopefully Tom as well, and a player who has come here and seen some immediate success is now prepared to stay here for the next few years of his career.”
Francis is the latest big name player to commit his future to the Chiefs, who in recent weeks have also tied down new deals for the likes of Cowan-Dickie, Nowell, Slade, as well as others such as Don Armand, Mitch Lees, Alec Hepburn, Thomas Waldrom and Harry Williams.
Baxter added that the form shown by Francis – who started his senior career with Doncaster Knights – has come as no real surprise to him.
“Tom has worked hard on all aspects of his game since joining us, and when you look at his age, if he can stay mentally and physically right, his best years are ahead of him, and that’s the important thing,” Baxter added.
“I always like to think it is a two-way street. We, as a club, work hard on our recruitment policy and like to see certain facets in someone’s game that we know are good foundation elements for us, and we saw those in Tom.
“But, at the same time, players have to come here and be prepared to work very hard, and that’s what we see with a lot of these guys.
“We like to think we provide an environment, with the coaches and facilities we have here, for them to be able to thrive if they are prepared to work hard, and I think that is what we see most of the time – a guy who comes here and is prepared to work hard will get the rewards – and that’s what we have seen with Tom.”