Dave Dennis says he will be leaving NSW Waratahs at the conclusion of the Super Rugby season for Britain on a three-year deal with English club the Exeter Chiefs because he wants to challenge himself and try something new.
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Dennis, who has played his entire career at the Waratahs, is adamant he will be leaving the club in the best possible shape after nine years and 93 games in the light blue jersey.
The 30-year-old former Waratahs club captain made his decision before Christmas after speaking to Exeter head coach Rob Baxter and will no doubt be picking the brain of his Waratahs teammate Dean Mumm, who captained and chalked up 70 appearances for the northern hemisphere side.
"I eventually felt it was a great opportunity for me to get over there and challenge myself elsewhere," Dennis told Fairfax Media on Monday evening. "It means I can plan a little bit ahead. It means I won't finish the season and rush over there. I didn't want it to be a distraction and for there to be whispers. I spoke to the team last week and told them my decision and told them I'm 100 per cent committed to this season."
Dennis was replaced as Waratahs captain this season by Michael Hooper; a decision coach Daryl Gibson made in hindsight knowing Dennis would be leaving at season's end and because of the transition the club is set to endure in the coming years.
"We sat down and had a chat about what was the best direction to take the club in terms of leadership and I think Daryl was hoping that I'd stay on," Dennis said. "There was a part of me that wanted to stay on for 2017. I had the option to do so, but when I sat back and thought about it, I thought it would fit nicely going into my 10th season."
"I've done my time at the club. It won't just be me that's moving on [after the season] - there will be a few guys moving."
Dennis - a winner of the NSW Player's Player 'Matthew Burke Cup' in 2012 - is one of the most respected members of the Waratahs squad and had he not been ruled out with an anterior cruciate injury in 2014, he would have led the Waratahs to their maiden Super Rugby title.
The 18-Test Wallabies forward said there was plenty of extra motivation knowing this would be his last season in Sydney.
"We've got the squad this year to push to win it [a Super Rugby title]," Dennis said. "I believe in that and I think it'd be a great way for me to finish up at the club."
Exeter Chiefs coach Rob Baxter said Dennis's leadership qualities were a big drawcard for him opting to sign the 193-cm workhorse.
"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.