Chiefs re-sign Baxter and Clarke
January 20, 2011
Richard Baxter is Exeter's record appearance holder with 367 outings © Getty Images
Established Exeter Chiefs stars Richard Baxter and Neil Clark are the latest two names to put pen to paper and extend their stay with the Aviva Premiership club.
The long-serving forwards have followed team-mates James Hanks, Tom Johnson, James Scaysbrook and Haydn Thomas in pledging their futures to the ambitious Devon club. No.8 Baxter - who is the club's record appearance holder with 367 outings - and hooker Clark have both agreed new two-year contracts with the Chiefs, who earlier this week confirmed the imminent arrival of Fijian powerhouse Nemani Nadolo from French Top 14 side Bourgoin.
Baxter, who is the younger brother of head coach Rob, has been playing for the Chiefs since 1997. He made his first team debut in an away game against Fylde and has since gone on to not only captain the club, but also represent England U21s, English National Divisions and the Barbarians. Clark, meanwhile, is now in into his second spell with the club. Having first joined in 1999 when he made his debut at home to Orrell, the hard-running forward departed in 2003 for a move to Bristol where he spent two seasons.
Spells at Bath (on loan) and Launceston followed before he rejoined the club in 2008. Last season, however, he played an integral role in helping the Chiefs achieve top flight status for the first time, playing in 27 Championship matches, including start all nine crunch play-off games.
"I'm really, really happy to have got another two years at the club," said Clark. "In the end it was an easy decision to make. We've been talking for a while about things, but as I said it didn't take too much to persuade me to stay. It was just a case of dotting the i's and crossing the t's.
"Obviously being in the Premiership again has been fantastic not only for me, but I suppose for all the boys. We've all been in good form and that was one of the reasons why I was more than happy to stay. The boys here are a great bunch, who enjoy playing together and we have a real team ethos."
Also hoping to be part of the immediate future is club colleague Baxter, who has battled back from surgery in the summer, to become a leading light in the Chiefs pack. "It's nice to sort out my future for a couple more years at Exeter. The set up we've got here, with the coaches and the fitness side of things, it was an easy decision to make.
"I feel okay at the moment, my body feels good, so it would be nice to carry on being a part of Exeter in the Premiership. We've got to push on in the second half of the season and it would be great to be a part of that. It was great to be a part of the side that got up into the Premiership and it would be great to be a part of the side in the Premiership for the next couple of years."
Securing both men for the foreseeable future is clearly a boost to Rob Baxter's plans to cement the side's top flight status. "We feel very confident with our core squad of players and I'm very happy that these guys (Clarky and Richie) have committed to the club," he said. "I think it shows we have a nice environment here and people want to be involved here.
"I like a good level of continuity, I think continuity both in the make-up of your squad and your week-by-week selections can play a big part in how you go in tough times. This shows these guys want to get down to hard work - because they wouldn't have committed themselves if they didn't want to work hard, they know they're going to have to - and they are going to be part of how we progress in the Premiership. They've got to keep getting better as players and we've got to keep helping them get better."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Jim Mallinder and Justin Burnell were sat on the same top table, but in different circumstances. Tom Hamilton reports on the Aviva Premiership season launch
Tom Hamilton reports back from the launch of the Guinness PRO12 where there is a renewed sense of optimism with all of the off-field changes to the league
So much for the great Australian revival, writes Greg Growden. It now has the potential of going off the rails after the capitulation at Eden Park
The latest Week in Pictures takes in photographs from the Rugby Championship, the Top 14 and the southern hemisphere domestic scene