Australian scrumhalf Pat Phibbs is to remain with the Exeter Chiefs until the end of the season after extending his contract with the Premiership club.
The 30-year-old was brought to Devon back in September by Exeter head coach Rob Baxter on a short-term deal to act as cover whilst Junior Poluleuligaga was away at the World Cup with Samoa.
However, the former Brumbies star has impressed many during his time at Sandy Park, including Baxter himself, who this week offered the former Australian A international the chance to prolong his stay in the Westcountry.
"Pat's deserved it, he's earned it the hard way," explained Baxter, who already has fellow scrumhalves Haydn Thomas, Kevin Barrett and Poluleuligaga within his first team ranks.
He explained: "I suppose the thing that has impressed me most about him is that he came to us in difficult circumstances. He arrived on a short-term contract; he had very little time to prove himself and there was no guarantee that he would get any game time or a contract in the future. Yet from day one he has got stuck in and worked extremely hard.
"Initially we weren't selecting him for the Premiership games because both Haydn and Kev were bang on form and playing well, so it was difficult for him. However, a few A games and the LV= Cup games come along and things changed for him. He played well; he lead the team well and all of a sudden you start to see a lot of good things, which I suppose he has influenced quite a bit.
"Obviously the more time he has spent with us we've got to know him better and learn more about his character. On top of that, however, he has put in some notably good performances along the way. Scrumhalf is a tough old position and I know the nines won't like me saying this, but we've now got four senior guys pushing hard for places," he added.
Having featured in two A fixtures, as well as the two Anglo-Welsh Cup games against Ospreys and Saracens, the Sydney-born player is now hoping to force his way into Baxter's Premiership and European plans in the coming weeks and months.
"I'm delighted to be staying on with the club," said Phibbs. "The set-up here is fantastic and I've loved every minute of it so far. I've been working hard these last few months and I've just been trying to put my best foot forward, so it's nice to be rewarded with the new contract."
Tasting English rugby for the first time in his career, Phibbs admits it has been an "interesting experience" getting to grips with the game in the northern hemisphere.
He added: "I've definitely picked up it's a most physical game over here and the breakdown is a lot more ferocious. Also the reliance on the set-piece is a lot more, especially the scrum which you can see is used as a real attacking weapon. As a scrumhalf it's great to be behind a pack like the Chiefs each week."
As well as Chiefs life, Phibbs admits he likes the Devon lifestyle too. "It's been great so far," he said. "I had been at the Brumbies for seven years and I was kind of in a nice comfort zone. One of the reasons I wanted to come over was to experience new things and have a different rugby experience and that is what has happened."
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