Premiership: Exeter cut defence coach, Alapati Leiua to France

Date published: April 28 2022 - Lawrence Nolan

Exeter have made the unusual step of parting ways with defence coach Julian Salvi with two weeks of the Premiership season remaining.

The team has had an underwhelming season and stands to miss out on the Premiership semi-finals for the first time in seven years, with coach Rob Baxter expressing hints that he was unhappy with his team’s intensity in recent weeks.

Too many penalties

“There has been a lot of clubs who have taken 10 years of bumbling along the bottom as a reset. We are going to fight very hard to avoid that,” he said after a season-defining defeat at Saracens last week.

“(We) did tactically drop off that toughness, that hardness about refusing to give up the penalties you just don’t need to give up… staying on the floor too long and getting pinged on the wrong side of a tackle or a guy standing offside to charge a kick down or a nothing penalty against for playing a player in the air. They give a team like Saracens a complete release of pressure.”

Meanwhile, Bristol are set to lose Samoan international Alapati Leiua to French ProD2 side Vannes at the end of the season.

Leiua was one of Bristol director of rugby Pat Lam’s first signings, joining the club in 2018. He has made 101 appearances over five seasons, scoring 26 tries.

Lam said: “Alapati has truly been a fantastic servant to the Bears and a leader for our culture and environment,” said Bristol coach Pat Lam.

“He has made an immense contribution on and off the field, laying the foundations for the next chapter of the Bears’ journey.

Newcastle are sending back row Tom Marshall down to New Zealand to gain some premier club experience in Dunedin at the Green Island Grizzlies, which has seen a number of All Blacks come through the ranks including Ben Smith.

“Hopefully I’ll be playing quite a bit of rugby, because that’s what I really need,” said Marshall, who recently scored a try against Harlequins but has seen first-team game-time limited this season.

“As well as that it’ll be a different style of rugby, a new life experience and I’m looking forward to learning some new things. I don’t really know anyone out there so I’m going into it with a totally clean slate, just ready to embrace something new.

“Their weather should be pretty similar to over here, so I’m sure there’ll be plenty of rain, and I think the style of rugby will be fairly similar.

Newcastle Falcons academy manager and first team skills coach Mark Laycock believes the option has come at the right time for Marshall, saying: “It’s a brilliant opportunity for Tom, and I know he’ll make the most of it.

“Their director of rugby Hayden Finch and all the other guys at Green Island have been brilliant. They’ve been really accommodating in helping us get Tom over there, and the key is to play as much club rugby as he can.

“From there hopefully he might put himself into contention for some provincial rugby with Otago if it all goes well, before coming back to us in the autumn.

“Tom is probably one of the guys who has been most affected by the whole Covid disruption to the rugby calendar over the last couple of years, and he hasn’t had as much game time as either we or he would have liked.

“It’s important that he takes this opportunity to develop, and it’s something we haven’t done too often as a club. I think Zach Kibirige was the last player we sent to New Zealand, and he really benefited from it, so it’s definitely an avenue we’ll continue to explore when it’s appropriate for the player.”