Tom Johnson and Damian Welch extend contracts with Exeter Chiefs

Damian Welch and Tom Johnson

Exeter Chiefs forwards Tom Johnson and Damian Welch have both signed new contracts with the Premiership club.

England flanker Johnson, 31, has put pen to paper on a three-year deal to run until 2017, while lock Welch, also 31, has extended his stay by two years.

"We're delighted to have TJ and Damian on board for the foreseeable future," said Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter.

"Both are senior members of the squad and very important players in terms of the first team."

Johnson, who has won five England caps, joined the Chiefs in 2007 from Coventry and has made 168 appearances in total and scored 27 tries.

"We feel very confident he is playing well and is at the top of his game right now," added Baxter.

"I think he's a great example of what can happen if you get your head down and work hard in everything you do.

"Our hope is that he can continue to show the form that will keep him in the England squad. On form we feel he is playing as well as any back-row forward in the Premiership."

Welch moved to Sandy Park from the Scarlets at the start of the 2011-12 season, but initially found his path to the first team blocked by Tom Hayes and James Hanks.

However, he has come to prominence this season and has now made 30 appearances for the club.

"He's one of the guys who has thrived with regular game time. What we're seeing with his gradual improvement now is that he's really knuckling down to his set-piece work, which has to come first," said Baxter.

"He is a galloping runner and he can score tries that other second rows can't, but first and foremost he has to get that set-piece right.

"That's the key when you do your recruitment and retention, seeing where players are going, not just where they are now. We're very comfortable that there's a lot more to come from Damian and we'll see more from him in the future."

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