Exeter Chiefs boss Rob Baxter has been handed the perfect pre-season boost with the news that three of his stalwarts have all agreed new deals with the Premiership club.
Fresh from helping England record a first-ever series win in Australia last month, Jack Nowell, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Henry Slade have followed that up by putting pen to paper on new three-year contracts.
All products of the club’s highly successful Academy set-up, the trio have risen through the ranks to not only establish themselves as leading lights within English rugby’s top flight, but also on the European and international stage.
News that the talented trio have committed their immediate futures to the Devon club has been welcomed by head coach Baxter, who in the past has said retention of existing stars can be more important than bringing in fresh talent.
“When you look at all the things it needs for three players like that to sign for a club, it shows that you are ticking a lot of boxes,” said Baxter.
“First and foremost it shows that we look after them and they enjoy being here, which is vitally important, but it also shows that we can help them not only achieve the ambitions which they have achieved so far, but that they also feel in the future they will experience big things here, not just in the Premiership and in Europe, but also internationally.
“For me, it shows that we are getting a lot of things right with them and that we look after them, but also that they enjoy being here and they like the style of rugby we play and that we’re an ambitious rugby club.”
Baxter admitted he was delighted to secure the futures of all three players, all of whom hail from the Westcountry and who have helped to forge the Chiefs as a growing force within the modern-day game.
He continued: “Obviously we’re delighted that three of our young players who’ve come through the academy and are current senior players and internationals for us are committing their immediate futures to us.
“From a coaching perspective and from a club perspective, it’s very fulfilling when you see young players being able to achieve those ambitions. It’s probably the biggest thing in coaching when you see young players from your rugby club go on and play not just in the Premiership and In Europe, but also at international level.
“That’s kind of what coaching is all about. The fact they are doing it as a group of players together is fantastic and it just bodes well for us as a club that international quality players want to play their rugby here with us and shows we are moving in the right direction.”
Having steered the Chiefs to the last eight of the European Champions Cup and runners-up spot in the Premiership last term, Baxter has seen little reason to make too many changes to the playing stock at Sandy Park.
Although a handful of players have departed in the summer, Baxter has added just three new faces for the upcoming campaign so far. Australian internationals Dave Dennis and Greg Holmes are set to join from the Waratahs and Reds respectively, while Ollie Devoto has also been snapped up from league rivals Bath.
Baxter is poised to confirm other members of his current squad have also penned new deals in the coming days and weeks, but for now he is talking up the contracts of his young England starlets.
“It’s great to know they’re going be with us for at least the next three years,” he added.
“They were easy contracts to do as the players wanted to stay and wanted to be part of the club going forward.
“They’ve seen the steps we’ve made as a team and we’re obviously delighted with how they’ve developed over the past few years and they’re important players for us.
“Some contracts are very easy to do and these three were certainly those types of contracts.”
And having worked closely with the trio, he believes there is still plenty to come from Nowell, Cowan-Dickie and Slade in the ensuing years.
“It’s not really what they have achieved so far, it’s more where they are going to go from here,” added Baxter.
“Obviously Jack has played a considerable amount of minutes at Test level and he’s being talked about as one of the top wingers in Europe, which he is.
“He’s worked very hard to get there and although the other lads are a little bit behind him, they are working just as hard on their games. They are all great characters, all very popular members of the squad and I think all of those things bode well for where they go in the future.
“Potentially, they are the kind of guys who could play at one rugby club for 10, 12 years and help a club become the best in the country. That’s what we have to try and do with them is make them the best they can be – while equally they have to try and make us be the best rugby club we can be.”