Tom James is first Exeter Chiefs signing
ROB Baxter has signed Wales winger Tom James – and believes he will be a big asset for Exeter Chiefs next season.
The 25-year-old will join the Chiefs on a two-year deal from Cardiff Blues in the summer.
As well as scoring 39 tries in 114 appearances during his seven seasons with the Blues, James has won 10 caps for his country.
And Baxter believes his ability to beat the first tackler will add an extra dimension to Exeter's attack.
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"Obviously we are delighted to have got Tom on board," said Baxter.
"Each year what you have to try and do is progress and move forward as a squad. We've had a good look at Tom over a period of time and for us it's difficult to ignore proven try-scorers, who have got a very good ability to break the gain line.
"One of Tom's biggest attributes is his ability to beat that first tackle from almost any scenario and I think that is the biggest quality you need when you come up against big, strong defences.
"He is a very professional trainer, he's in exceptionally good physical nick and he's incredibly quick."
James, who joined the Blues in 2006 from Merthyr, is looking forward to getting involved with the Chiefs.
He has been impressed with some of the rugby Baxter's men have played this season, both in the Aviva Premiership and the Heineken Cup.
James said: "Signing for Exeter Chiefs is a great move for me. They are a team that I've watched come up to the Premiership over the last few years and do really well.
"I like the style of attacking rugby they play. They've shown not just this season, but also last year as well, that they can compete with all the top sides.
"This year they were put in a tough Heineken Cup group, yet they beat the Scarlets home and away, and they gave both Leinster and Clermont Auvergne a run for their money as well, so I'm looking forward to being a part of it all."
After spending his entire senior career with the Blues, James feels he is ready for a new challenge. And he thinks playing in the Premiership will be a good test for him.
"I've spent most of my career playing in the RaboDirect Pro12, but I think playing in the Premiership will definitely challenge me in different ways," he said.
"It's an incredibly tough division and the intensity you can see is there every week.
"I've had a fantastic seven years with the Blues and I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity to play for them and for the support I've been shown over my career.
"There are so many highlights I've had, including winning the EDF Energy and Amlin Challenge cups, but I felt the time was right for a fresh challenge.
"Exeter are clearly an ambitious club and, having talked to the coaches about where they want to go and also the plans for the stadium, I felt I wanted to be a part of it all and experience something different."
James is the first new recruit announced by Baxter, having already handed 15 existing players fresh deals.
However, that still leaves 19 players out of contract at the end of this campaign.
While some are close to signing extended deals, Baxter does not intend to bring in too many new players.
"We won't want to add too many new faces," said Baxter. "We've got a good academy group coming through at the moment and I think the guy that has stood out in the last couple of months has been Jack Nowell.
"When you look at him you say 'what has he added to the squad?' Well, what Jack has added is that ability to break the gain line and you can see the difference that makes.
"Those are the kinds of backs we are looking to work with and alongside those attributes Tom has also got very good pace."