Wallaby forward Dave Dennis will leave the NSW Waratahs at the end of the 2016 Super Rugby season, signing with English Premiership club the Exeter Chiefs for three years.
The Waratahs on Monday confirmed Dennis would depart following this year’s campaign, joining Queensland prop Greg Holmes in the side previously captained by his NSW teammate Dean Mumm.
With 18 Australian and 93 Waratahs’ caps to his name, the 30-year-old captain has played all of his Super Rugby games for NSW since debuting in 2007.
After making his Wallaby debut in 2012, Dennis became one of only two players, together with Nathan Sharpe, to feature in all 15 Tests played that year.
Dennis said he was comfortable with making the decision now.
“It was a really hard decision because I’ve been here my whole career – I’ve spent 10 years here. I could easily stay here until my career ended but I’ve always wanted to challenge myself in a different environment.
“I’m not getting any younger and, with the transition of Michael (Hooper) into the captaincy, I’m really comfortable with the way I’ll be leaving the club at the end of the year, and I think that’s really important.
“I wanted to announce this early in the year so it wasn’t a distraction for myself or anyone else. Now I can just put that aside and really focus on what we want to achieve this year as a team, which for me is the number one priority.
“I look forward to looking back next year and seeing a lot of the young guys we have in the squad this year, like Jed Holloway and Jack Dempsey, really progressing and pushing forward, being consistent players for the Waratahs. For me, it will be really satisfying to say I played a small part of that,” Dennis said.
He won the Waratahs’ Players’ Player Matthew Burke Cup in 2012 and was subsequently named NSW captain in 2013.
Despite being forced to the sidelines with anterior cruciate knee ligament damage during the Waratahs’ inaugural Super Rugby championship year in 2014, he continued to play a key role as a mentor.
Exeter coach Rob Baxter admitted he saw many similarities in new signing Dennis and former Chiefs skipper Mumm.
“When you look at the make-up of our squad, he’s got the right experience we want to recruit and the right leadership qualities which will be important because we have got some young players within the squad that we need to bring through,” Baxter said.
“Yes, there are lots of similarities with Dean. Positional-wise, they can both play lock or in the back-row.
“They’ve both come from the Waratahs and, as I said, I’ve spoken to Dave, spoken to Dean, and they would have spoken themselves, and for me it’s a comfortable and very good fit,” Baxter said.