Keen to ensure continuity within the playing ranks at Sandy Park, Baxter has now added Australian forward Mitch Lees to those extending their stay with the Aviva Premiership club.
Lees, 26, joined the Chiefs ahead of the 2014/15 season from London Welsh and quickly established himself as a key figure in Baxter’s plan, featuring in 24 games last season.
Like newly-capped Welsh international Francis, Lees made the step up from the Championship look somewhat troublesome as he quickly fitted into the Exeter game plan.
Baxter clearly likes what Lees - who can also play in the back-row - has to offer and says the decision to offer the player a contract extension was an easy one.
“He is similar to Tom Francis in a lot of ways, we signed him on a two-year contract after he came out of the Championship and he has obviously done fantastically well in his first season with us.
“We feel there is still a lot of development in him and we have kind of only scratched the surface with him as a professional player. He has not been in a professional training environment for very long, but he is obviously a big guy and he is a very good rugby player.
“As I said, he had a very good first season for us, so we moved very early to extend his contract for the next two years, and it was sensible to get him wrapped up now.”
Already Baxter is looking to the future and with a large nucleus of this year’s squad already tied up to long-term deals, the Chiefs leader knows he won’t have to do too much work in terms of recruitment next summer.
He added: “We feel like one of the most important parts of recruitment year on year is to get players who are playing well, improving and who you are happy with and then tie them down for an extended period, so you don’t have too much chopping and changing every year.
“We feel very comfortable with the squad we have at the moment, and we’re not going to add a lot next year probably. You can look at our under contract list now and most of the guys are pinned down for at least two years. As a club that is what we want, some genuine continuity and then look to add in selective positions, a bit like this year.
“Mitch did well in his first year and it was a very simple decision for both us and him to extend for another year.”
Lees himself admitted it was a ‘no-brainer’ to put pen to paper on a new deal with the club.
He said: “I had a great year last season. I was really happy with the way I played, getting plenty of game time, and signing a contract extension was a no-brainer really.
“I came to Exeter just wanting to try and crack into the team and get some game time, but I think I ended up playing 15 or 16 league games, so I was really happy with my year.
“We were a bit unlucky not to push on more as a club at the end of last season, but we have another great opportunity again this year and a great squad as well.”
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