Welsh international Craig Mitchell is to leave Exeter Chiefs at the end of the season to take up a contract with Rabo Pro 12 side Cardiff Blues.
The 27-year-old prop will move to the Arms Park on a three-year deal, bringing to an end a similar spell with the Devon club.
Signed by head coach Rob Baxter during the summer of 2011 from the Ospreys, Mitchell enjoyed a promising first season in Devon as he helped the club secure a fifth place finish in the Aviva Premiership.
Sadly the last two years at Sandy Park have not gone quite as smoothly for the talented tight-head as a string of long-term injuries have meant he has spent some frustrating spells on the sidelines.
“It has been quite difficult over the last two seasons,” said Mitchell, who to date has made 35 appearances and scored one try in Exeter colours. “The first year I came in I played a big role within the team and I really enjoyed it.
“After that first season Rob offered me another contract and I was really looking forward to pushing on, but since then I’ve been hit with a few injuries that have put me out long term.
“I won’t lie, it’s been really frustrating and at times I’ve been in some pretty low places. That said, I’ve got to give credit to the physios and the conditioning staff at the club, they’ve helped to pull me through and get me back to fitness again.
“In an ideal world I’d love to have played more, simply because the Chiefs are a great club. When I arrived a few years ago it was a new challenge for me and I wanted to test myself in the Premiership because everyone knows how tough a division it is.
“It’s not quite worked out how I would have wanted because of the injuries, but at the same time I genuinely don’t have a bad word to say about the place. From the ladies in the front office to all the coaches, everyone at the club is so down to earth and working hard for the same goals.
“Over the next few years I’ve no doubt that the Chiefs will be competing at the top end of the table. You only have to look at the signings they are making to see that they’ll be a force. “
Mitchell added: “At the same time I’ve been offered a great opportunity with the Blues and it’s one that I am looking forward to. Anyone who was at the game at the weekend would have seen two very exciting teams and two teams who want to achieve things.
“For me it’s a chance to go home and try and kick-start my career again. One of my aims is obviously to try and get back into the Wales squad, but the boys who have come in have done well so it’s going to be tough. I know I will have to work hard to try and do that, but I am willing to put myself through the pain barrier to get back in.”
Mitchell’s departure means the Chiefs have now lost two of their current tight-head options with Hoani Tui also exiting at the end of the season to join French side Lyon.
Coach Baxter said: “Obviously we’re sad to see Mitch move on because he has been a good and popular member of the squad for a few years now.
“He had a very good first year with us, one in which he showed not just to us but also himself what a very good rugby player he is. Sadly the last two years he’s been unfortunate with one or two long-term injuries and that has meant he has not been able to get the game time we would have liked from him.
“That said, he’s fit and raring to go again now and we hope he will play a big part between now and the end of the season. There is still a lot of rugby to be played this season and we hope to see the best of him between now and then.
“As always he’ll go with our best wishes and we hope he continues to make a name for himself with the Blues and Wales.”
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