Aviva Premiership: Julian Salvi was too good to miss, says Baxter
Exeter Chiefs head coach delighted to pounce on Australian flanker as Devon club continue recruitment for next season
Rob Baxter believes the chance to sign Julian Salvi from Leicester Tigers was too good to miss after confirming the player will head to Sandy Park on a two-year deal this summer.
The Exeter Chiefs head coach has made a second raid on Welford Road this season following a collapse in talks between Salvi’s people and the Tigers management after four seasons in the East Midlands.
The more detail that I looked into Julian, the more impressed I was…It was an opportunity that was too good for us to miss. I think Julian will fit in really well.
Rob Baxter on new signing Julian Salvi
Salvi, 29, had been linked with a move to the Top 14 in France, with Stade Français reportedly in pole position, so securing a player of the Australian’s calibre is another coup for the Chiefs, who have already confirmed Salvi’s Tigers team-mate Geoff Parling, highly-rated Italian centre Michele Campagnaro from Benetton Treviso, and Scotland-qualified lock Ollie Atkins from Edinburgh Rugby for next season on the advice of departing captain Dean Mumm.
Considered one of the finest openside flankers in Europe, the 29-year-old has long been a rock in the Tigers pack and Baxter admits he was impressed the more he looked into Salvi’s attributes as a player.
“Put simply, he is a very good player, very highly-rated and one of the star openside flankers in the Premiership for a number of seasons now,” Baxter said.
“I think people are aware that he has come available relatively late in the season as a target for us, so I took the decision when I knew he was coming available to talk to him.
“I spent a bit of time looking at him in detail and it’s like a lot of players, you have watched them play and know some of their qualities, but you have to watch them in detail before you make any decisions.
“The more detail that I looked into Julian, the more impressed I was.
“He is talked about an awful lot for his defensive qualities, but what I was most pleased with was what I saw of his attacking qualities.
“When we looked at him in detail it all added up. Our meeting went very well and he came across very well in what he said about his continued ambitions about the game and what he wants to achieve and get out of rugby.
“With the situation which ended up happening at Leicester, it was an opportunity that was too good for us to miss. I think Julian will fit in really well.
“He is very much his own man and I was very pleased we could sign him for the next two years.”
With the Rugby World Cup in September meaning a delayed start to the 2015/16 Aviva Premiership, Baxter will have plenty of time to get to know some of his new recruits, including Salvi.
Julian will bring some different attributes and I hope he will be a positive influence for some of the younger guys we have here.
The Chiefs boss is well aware that the Premiership clubs face a mammoth battle next season with the rescheduled league campaign meaning they will have to play almost an unbroken 25-week period, including their European Champions Cup campaign.
But he believes Salvi’s Premiership experience of 104 games for Bath and Leicester will help what is already a strong forward pack cope with the extra demands on next season’s competitions.
“I would be lying if I said his expertise didn’t have some bearing, because it did,” Baxter added.
“We knew there would be some changes coming in our forward group. We were aware we would have to look at how we wanted to manage that and I think Julian coming in is something to redress that balance.
“With Geoff Parling coming in that will help and I think Julian’s arrival will as well.
“Julian will bring some different attributes and I hope he will be a positive influence for some of the younger guys we have here, like Sam Simmonds, who can pick his brains and work with him.
“The situation that arose made it a very easy decision to talk to him and look to sign him – there were a lot of positive reasons and I’m very glad we have.
“I think it will be interesting to see how our back-five forwards challenge for those spots because we have a really strong group there.
“You need that, however. You look at how the Premiership season is laid out and, with us being in the Champions Cup, when that kicks off it will be 25 weeks on the trot of us playing.
“We expect a lot of our back-five forwards and we place a high demand on them so having a strong group like we do now is fantastic for us.”