TOMAS Francis will ensure it remains a four-way battle to be Wales’ tighthead starter after signing a three-year contract with the Ospreys.

The 28-year-old is moving to the Liberty Stadium from English and European champions Exeter to extend his Test career.

Francis’ deal with the Chiefs expired in the summer and he is eight caps short of the 60 needed to stay eligible for Wales for those playing outside of the country.

That left him with the choice of staying in Devon with the club that gave him a chance or heading to a region for the first time.

He has opted for the latter and will now continue his battle with the Dragons’ Leon Brown, Cardiff Blues Dillon Lewis and the Scarlets’ Samson Lee to be Wayne Pivac’s starter.

Francis made three starts and two substitute appearances in the autumn while Lee also started three times with an outing off the bench.

Both Lewis and Brown, who was hindered by a knee injury, were subs twice.

“I spoke to the Welsh regions but I was impressed with the vision of head coach, Toby Booth, and where he wanted to take the Ospreys,” said Francis, a Yorkshireman with a grandmother from Abercrave.

“His attention to detail and knowledge of my game and what he and Duncan Jones laid out to me was really appealing.

“Toby and the coaches there are starting to steer the ship in the right direction. It’s just an exciting challenge for myself and I can see the potential there, and off the pitch there is a new backer and it’s exciting to see where that takes the Ospreys.

South Wales Argus: Wales' Tomas Francis during the Guinness Six Nations match at Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli.Wales' Tomas Francis during the Guinness Six Nations match at Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli.

“The boys I know in the Wales squad all talked positively about what is happening at the Ospreys and it seems like a place that is heading in the right direction. The Ospreys just stood out to me as the region that is going places.

“I know a lot of the boys there from the Wales set-up and the squad has some talented youngsters sprinkled with some real experience and knowledge. I know there will be real competition for the shirt and we all need that as players.

“Signing for the Ospreys will allow me to continue to play for Wales, something I was not willing to give up, but to do that I know I have to perform and earn my place with the Ospreys.

“Performing for the Ospreys will give me the opportunity to be selected for international rugby.”

The Liberty Stadium side endured a nightmare 2019/20 but a Guinness PRO14 win at Rodney Parade last weekend put them eight points ahead of the Dragons, albeit after playing a game more.

Former Bath and London Irish coach Booth was appointed last summer and believes the Francis signing shows they are on the right track.

“In our new era and on the journey we are on, it is important to show both ambition and a desire to develop our own players,” he said.

“Signing a current international tighthead prop with a winning history and mentality will help the Ospreys make the steps we need to make and fuel the ambition now and for the long-term future.

“Tom’s decision to join us is a great sign of the progress we are making and shows the intent and commitment to what we want to be as the Ospreys.

"He has won European and domestic honours and he will bring a wealth of experience and a massive set-piece capability to our squad.

“His qualities will prove invaluable going forward as we prepare for the new challenges presented by the new PRO16 competition.”