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Baxter hails Salvi arrival

For the second time this season, Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter has raided Aviva Premiership rivals Leicester Tigers for one of their prized assets.

Having already recruited England and British Lions lock Geoff Parling for next season, Baxter has moved swiftly to add the name of club-mate Julian Salvi to the Sandy Park roster for the next two years.

Widely regarded as one of the most destructive forwards in European rugby, Salvi’s arrival in the Westcountry is yet another telling addition to what is looking a formidable Chiefs squad for the 2015/16 season.

Commenting on the capture of Salvi, Baxter said: "Put simply, he is a very good player, very highly-rated and one of the star open-side flankers in the Premiership for a number of seasons now.

"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."

A prominent figure in the Leicester back-row for the past four years, Salvi’s move to the Chiefs will only bolster a back-row department that already includes the likes of Dave Ewers, Don Armand, Ben White, Kai Horstmann, Tom Johnson, Sam Simmonds, Sam Skinner and Thomas Waldrom.

Baxter continued: "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."

In what has been a busy period of recruitment for Baxter, the Chiefs leader admits bringing in proven quality is something he has identified as the Devon club look to build on what has been a very productive past five years.

"I would be lying if I said his expertise didn’t have some bearing, because it did," said Baxter. "We knew there would be some changes coming in our forward group. We were ware 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. 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."

Baxter also feels the experienced Salvi – who has amassed 112 appearances for the Tigers, scoring 11 tries – will be hugely beneficial to others within his squad.

"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," said Baxter.

"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."

And having seen former Tigers’ team-mate Waldrom flourish in his first season at Sandy Park, Baxter has an idea the free-scoring No.8 has helped to sell the Chiefs to his close friend.

Baxter continued: "I can’t speak for individual players – it is for those guys to talk about their reasons behind coming to Exeter – but I have no doubt they know Tom and were able to talk to him in more detail about the club.

"Hopefully he gave them real clarity and honesty about the kind of thing we do here and that obviously helps. It is part of the equation when other players join – of course it is. How well Tom is doing here and playing is great for all kinds of recruitment issues because that is what you want to see – good players coming to the club, thriving and improving."
 

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