Exeter Chiefs continue to retain faith in current squad by rewarding forwards with extended deals
Ben Moon and James Phillips are the latest Exeter Chiefs players to agree new deals – and Rob Baxter believes both can still get better.
Former Cullompton prop Moon, 23, has penned a two-year extension to his contract, while 25-year-old Phillips has committed himself to the club for another season.
They take the number of current squad members to have signed new deals to 17, and Baxter expects England international Tom Johnson to follow suit in the near future.
Moon joined the Chiefs in 2007 after leaving college and Baxter has been impressed with the way he has improved his game.
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With Brett Sturgess injured, he started the recent Heineken Cup games against Clermont Auvergne and Leinster, and the Sandy Park head coach believes that will be great for his progress.
Baxter said: “He’s getting decent game-time now and it’s his game-time that will see his development accelerate. He’s learning in the heat of the battle – playing Clermont and Leinster is fantastic for a young prop.
“We like having Moony around, he’s a good member of the squad, a professional guy and we can see improvement in him that will keep coming.
“It’s one of the easy ones for us. He’s a local guy and this is the club he should be playing professional rugby for.”
No. 8 Phillips started the season well but then suffered a serious knee injury during the 14-12 win against Saracens in September.
In addition to being a fan of the Bristolian, Baxter also feels the club have a duty of care to make sure he comes back fitter and stronger. There is a chance he could play again in April.
Baxter said: “He’s a big guy, a good ball carrier, someone who can really challenge the gain line.
“We were really seeing that in his performance against Saracens when he had this injury.
“He can also cover second row well but we’re still pretty sure the best of him is still to come and that’s pretty important. There’s still a lot of improvement.
“The lad suffered quite a serious injury while playing for Exeter and we feel it’s down to us to bring him through that injury and give him an opportunity to play again.”
Phillips himself intends to pay Baxter back for giving him a chance to prove himself again when he recovers from his injury.
“It’s a massive relief [to sign] because you are never always sure where your next contract is coming from,” Phillips said.
“It’s been another tough year for me – what with the injury – but I’m working hard to get back fit and once I’ve done that I want to repay the faith Rob has shown in me.
“To be at the Chiefs for another year is great, it’s a brilliant place to come to work. As a team, we’ve come a long way in a short space of time, but the club is definitely moving in the right direction and I want to be part of that.”
Moon has enjoyed being part of the Chiefs’ success in recent seasons and he believes he can continue to improve as a player.
“I’m really happy to have signed on for another two years, the Chiefs are a great club and being part of what they have achieved over the last few years has been very special,” he said.
“I feel I have improved a lot over the last few years, playing against and alongside some of the best players in the game is bound to improve you, but at the same time I still feel there is a lot more to come from me.”