Exeter Chiefs have announced contract extensions for 30 first-team players, including England regulars Luke Cowan Dickie, Jack Nowell and Henry Slade as well as Scotland captain Stuart Hogg.
Director of rugby Rob Baxter also revealed the agreements had been finalised before June 18, meaning only 75 per cent of their value will count towards the Premiership’s reduced salary cap for the 2021-22 season and beyond.
Telegraph Sport understands that several of the club’s high-profile names have been tied down on three- and four-year deals without needing to accept pay cuts.
“I’m delighted with what has happened,” Baxter said of the renewal process, which also brought extensions for Sam and Joe Simmonds among a host of Sandy Park favourites.
“It seems strange really, because there has been an awful lot of news coming out from other clubs in regards to what is happening around pay cuts, players leaving, players staying, yet we have got on with our business pretty quickly.
“In the end, we used that period between the salary cap change being discussed and when any new contract that would be allowed in the new salary cap system to be finalised to sort something like 30 contracts.
“They are all different and not one of them is the same. It’s meant us having individual discussions with players and agents, but, in the end, I feel like we’ve all got what we need out of it. They are not all four-year deals, nor are they all one-year deals, but we feel we have done the right thing in kind of backing this group of players.
“This group have worked extremely hard for us and whilst there are always one or two changes each year, everyone knows we are relatively fluid and that we don’t tend to change a lot of players. We have got a group here now, many of whom are around that age group of 26-27, and barring one of those tragic serious injuries that can happen in rugby, we feel we should get a really good three or four years out of this group.
“Actually, with the majority of them, we feel they will continue to improve and we will indeed get their best rugby years out of them. I think that gave me a lot of confidence to push through with this - and when I spoke to Tony [Rowe] about it, it gave him a lot of confident to allow me to talk to the majority of the players about would they like to think about extending their contract with us.”
Baxter explained that Exeter’s strong financial position means that the small number of first-team squad members not to be offered new contracts could still stay with the club after their current deals end.
Ben Moon, Jack Maunder, Tom O’Flaherty and Elvis Taione agreed new terms during lockdown, while multi-year contracts for new arrivals such as Jonny Gray, Josh Hodge, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Aaron Hinkley remain unaffected.
“You are always looking to the future and this time of year is normally when you tend to start talking to players about extending contracts,” added Baxter.
“What happened with all these changes merely accelerated the process a little bit for us. As I said, I’m very happy with what we have put in place.
“Not every player has got an extension, but those who haven’t received an extension, it’s kind of irrelevant because they are players who may well be thinking: ‘Let’s see how the next year goes and where I stand’.
“With those guys it doesn’t mean they will be leaving, but because we have ourselves in a salary cap position where we are pretty well settled for a few years, we also have that little bit of room that if a player does decide to move on, we can replace them.
“Looking at the work we’ve done, we feel we have a group here now who can achieve an awful lot together and it feels fantastic that we have them the opportunity to stay together and do that.”