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Exeter Chiefs flanker Tom Johnson signs new one-year deal

By echo_nick  |  Posted: February 14, 2013

Tom Johnson has signed a one-year contract extension with Exeter Chiefs Picture: Dan Mullan/Pinnacle

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Exeter Chiefs flanker Tom Johnson has signed a new one-year deal with the club - and head coach Rob Baxter is delighted.

The 30-year-old England player has been with the Chiefs since 2007 and is looking forward to remaining at Sandy Park.

And Baxter thinks it is an encouraging sign that Johnson was keen to stay with the Chiefs as he also looks to further his international career.

"We're always delighted when any of our players get international recognition," said Baxter. "TJ, we know, has worked incredibly hard to get into the current England set-up and in time we hope even more of our guys follow suit.

"I know from speaking to (England coach) Stuart Lancaster myself that he sees the ambition of our club and of our players - and I am sure that in conversation with TJ he has probably expressed the same message to him.

"I think from our perspective it's great that TJ feels that he can remain ambitious and keep himself within the England picture by staying with us here at Exeter."

Baxter added that, despite speculation to the contrary in some circles, Johnson was never on the brink of leaving the club.

"As a club we're delighted that TJ has extended his contract with us for another year, this despite a lot of talk in newspapers and gossip columns linking him with a move elsewhere," he said.

"As a club there has never been any issues with regards to him moving on, what has taken the time has been more discussing personal terms and making sure things are right for both ourselves and TJ.

"TJ's played a key part in our move out of the Championship and then establishing ourselves in the Premiership. Not only have we seen him grow as a player, but off the field he is a great ambassador for the club as well.

"Negotiations throughout have been very open on both sides and we're pleased to have him on board for another year at least.

"At no time did TJ ever express any desire to leave us, so when you have a player thinking like that it's often very easy to get things sorted quickly and without too much hassle."

Johnson joined the Chiefs from Coventry and shared blindisde duties with Samoan international Chad Slade while the in the club were in the second tier.

However, since Exeter won promotion in 2010, Johnson has been a virtual ever-present and won his first England cap last summer.

And he said he had no real desire to leave the Chiefs after enjoying so much success with the club.

"I'm really happy down here," he said. "A lot of it is to do with the area, which I'm very fond of, and the boys here at the club. Both those things were important to me, as was staying within the current England set-up.

"Exeter have helped to get me to that position, so I didn't really want to go to another club and almost start from fresh again.

"I know what goes on here at the Chiefs, the routines and everything, and that seems to suit me. The hard work all the boys put in each day, our game structure, the club itself - it's all things that have helped get me the recognition I've had, so I was more than happy to stay here."

Johnson is also excited about what the future holds for the Chiefs, with a host of young players coming through the academy putting pressure on the senior players.

"This is my sixth season here and you can see the club is going in the right place," he said. "Not only have they got big plans for off the pitch, but on the pitch it's equally exciting for all of us as players.

"We've not got only got a strong nucleus of the squad together again for next season, but we've got some exceptional youngsters coming through as well.

"All around you can see we are building things for the future and it will be nice to be part of all of that."

Johnson is currently out of action with a knee ligament injury but may be able to return before the end of the campaign.

And he paid tribute to the club's medical staff, including physio Jamie Fulton, for the way they are helping him recover.

He said: "I've got about five or six weeks left. Jamie Fulton is pushing me hard, but we're not trying to do too much, too quickly.

"The medical and rehab staff here at the club are first class and they are keeping me in check, simply because if you skip corners and don't do things in the right order, sooner or later you are going to fall foul of something.

"I'll continue to work hard over this next block and hopefully it won't be too long before I'm back playing for the Chiefs again."

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