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Bournemouth reward Francis with new deal

AFC Bournemouth have handed defender Simon Francis a new three-and-a-half-year contract.

The 30-year-old has been at the club since 2011, helping them progress from League One to the Premier League. He has been a regular in the top flight this season and has captained the side in the absence of Tommy Elphick.

Francis - who started his career with Bradford City before taking in stints at Sheffield United, Southend United and Charlton Athletic - was named in the PFA Championship Team of the Year at the end of a 2014-15 campaign that saw Bournemouth promoted.

"It’s an easy decision for me," he told Bournemouth's official website.

"I am really settled here and I think everyone knows that at the club. The manager and the staff know how much I enjoy it, so for me it was an easy decision as long as the ins and outs of the contract were right.

"Thankfully that has all been sorted out and it couldn't be more perfect."

Meanwhile, Elliott Ward has left the Vitality Stadium to join Championship club Blackburn Rovers on a permanent basis.

The move means the defender - who has signed a deal at Ewood Park that runs until the summer of 2018 - is reunited with manager Paul Lambert. The pair previously worked together at Norwich City.