Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter has announced that Don Armand and Jonny Hill have both been handed new two-year contracts by the club.
The back-row and lock extend their stay in Devon until at least the summer of 2019.
Baxter has spoken in recent weeks about his desire to tie down the long-term futures of a number of players within his first-team squad – and this latest news will be warmly welcomed not only by those in power at Sandy Park, but also by the wider Chiefs faithful.
“Don has been with us a while now, and is an exceptional back-row or back-five forward,” said Baxter of the former Stormers forward who joined the Chiefs in 2013.
“He has been in exceptional form for us over the last two or three seasons in the Premiership, and he is a key leader and key member of our squad, so we are really pleased he is going to extend his stay with us over a lengthy time.
“He is one of those guys you would probably like to think might stay around and have his whole of the rest of his career with us really, he has been that good for us since we signed him.”
Baxter added: “Don came to us and didn’t have a position pinned down straight away, but he worked extremely hard and learnt a lot about what the club was like. He was in a position of real competition across the back five of the scrum and took his opportunities when they came.
“To me, he is a player who is thriving in all the challenges we lay out – the bigger the games we play in, the more he seems to enjoy them. I still see a lot of development in him, and he has just got to take that next little step really to fulfil his potential as an international player, because he is not far off playing at that level now.
“There are potentially one or two things he can add to his game that will just make it impossible not to pick him. He plays a lot of rugby for us week in and week out, and there is a reason for that – because he is a good player.”
Teaming up alongside Armand – who last summer was one of a number of Exeter players to tour South Africa with the England Saxons – will be Hill, who himself has progressed impressively since arriving from top flight rivals Gloucester two years ago.
Like Armand, Baxter is predicting the 22-year-old forward to go on to bigger and better things, insisting the player has the potential to become a full England international.
“Jonny is a young man who has now broken through into the frontline first-team squad,” said Baxter. “You can see him becoming a very important member of the back five of the scrum for us.
“He looks like a player with ever-growing potential and whilst it is going to be important for us to help him fulfil that potential, as long as he is prepared to work very hard, I can see him becoming a full international rugby player.”