10th April 2014
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Baxter today added the imposing 25-year-old Australian to his playing ranks on a two-year deal from Championship club London Welsh - and he feels the versatile Lees will offer a significant presence within the Exeter pack.

Equally at home in either the second or back-row, Lees follows internationals Moray Low and Thomas Waldrom, as well as Tomas Francis in signing onto the Chiefs ahead of the 2014/15 campaign.

As always Baxter has done in-depth homework on his latest recruit, studying all aspects of Lees' play with both Welsh this season and before that Aussie club side Eastwood.

Clearly the Exeter leader likes what he sees, stating: “We see him as a big, ball-carrying lock. Guys who can play other positions are always good, but that’s where we see him playing.

“He’s not been in a professional environment very long so we think he’s a guy with a good deal of improvement in him. I consider him one of the best ball-carrying back-five forwards in the Championship, both in terms of his numbers and the quality of his carries. He gets used a lot as the No.1 hit-up man by London Welsh off line-outs and midfield.

“I’m not saying he breaks loads of tackles and makes 50-yard runs, but he does a lot of that hard gain-line breaking work for London Welsh and gets them on the front foot.

“We had a really good meeting with him. His motivation for doing well seem very strong to me and I think he’s what we’re looking for in our second-row combination. We’ve got some real athletes in our back five, he’s a big solid guy and we think he will give us a ball-carrying presence and a presence in the set-piece.”

And as Baxter has proved since the rise of the Chiefs into English rugby's top flight in 2010, players stepping up from the Championship are more than capable of mixing it at the highest level of the game.

“We think good Championship players can make good Premiership players,” added Baxter. “You want to add quality at the top end sometimes, but you also want to make sure you appreciate the quality of some guys who aren’t playing Premiership rugby yet because they can do a very good job in the Premiership.

“Looking at what Sam Dickinson has done at Northampton, he filled a very similar role at Rotherham to what Mitch does at London Welsh. Potentially these guys can have a big impact in the Premiership and that’s what we’re looking for from Mitch, but we’re also aware there’s a fair bit of development to come.”


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