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Baxter feels Exeter Chiefs are complete as Votu arrives and forwards commit

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 13, 2012

  • Australian flanker Ben White admits he is delighted to have committed an additional two years to playing for Chiefs

  • Exeter Chiefs lock James Hanks (top) has signed a two-year contract extension picture: Phil Mingo/Pinnacle

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James Hanks and Ben White have both signed new two-year deals with Exeter Chiefs – while wing Watisoni Votu is close to completing his move to Sandy Park.

Lock Hanks, 28, and Australian flanker White take the number of players to have agreed contract extensions this season to nine.

However, head coach Rob Baxter still has 22 members of his squad coming out of contract at the end of the current campaign.

One addition to the playing roster in the coming days will be Votu, who has been granted a visa to work in this country.

The only thing remaining before club officials can register him as a player is his international clearance from the Fiji Rugby Union.

While Votu is the latest player to pitch up at Sandy Park, Hanks is the third-longest serving player behind Rich Baxter and Neil Clark, having made his debut in 2005.

He said: "It was an easy decision to sign again. You see the ambition of the club and the way it is moving forward all the time, so it's a place you want to play and a place where players want to be.

"I've been here a long time now and it's a great place to be. I started out at the university and it's just taken off from there.

"The club has come on massively over the years and as player you can see we are all improving all the time. Hopefully that will continue as we look to move forward and everybody seems very excited about the next few years."

Baxter thinks Hanks can get even better as he gets used to life in the top flight. A former lock himself, the coach thinks his protégé's best years are ahead of him.

"When you look at the Heineken Cup, Hanksy is a relatively inexperienced player," said Baxter. "Just experiencing those things and the intensity the game is played at will keep developing him and improving him as a player.

"He's a good set-piece forward already but, from speaking to him in his reviews, I know he'd like to carry the ball more and like to tackle more."

White is in his second season with the Chiefs, having moved to Devon from Cardiff Blues in June 2011.

He has not played since the 42-28 win against Harlequins in October because of injury but is now back to fitness and hopes to feature again soon.

"I'm delighted to have signed again. I was very keen to stay and I was very happy when Rob said he wanted me to," said the 29-year-old.

"It's been a good two years for me at the club. I thought I played well last year and this year was going well until I got injured. I'm back now, though, and hopefully I can get back playing again and help the team to do well."

While Baxter has been busy putting his squad together for next season – with 18 senior players now under contract until at least summer 2014 – he has also been trying to finalise Votu's move.

Having applied for his visa last Monday, the 27-year-old was informed at the end of last week he had been successful.

He has already started training with his new team-mates ahead of his official registration, which is expected to be a formality.

"His visa is done, we've just got to get his international clearance from Fiji and then we can register him," said Baxter. "It's been a longer process than we originally anticipated, for various reasons, but we've got what we see as our completed squad now.

"It's going to be great to see [Votu] training. It will take him a little while to settle in and learn calls, but we always anticipated that."

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