Exeter Chiefs have parted company with defense coach Julian Salvi, as the two-time Premiership champions set about arresting a slump in performance.
Exeter currently stand fifth in the Premiership table with two matches to play and are in danger of missing the end-of-season play-offs for the first time in seven years.
The Chiefs have conceded 55 tries in 22 matches in the league, a total bettered only by the top three clubs Leicester, Saracens and Harlequins, who have all played one game fewer.
But Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter recently stated he was planning changes to regain momentum, and said after Sunday’s 38-22 loss at Saracens: “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. “
Salvi, 36, joined Exeter from Leicester as a flanker in 2015, having also played for Bath and the Brumbies in his native Australia, and he moved onto the Sandy Park coaching staff in 2018, making him the shortest-serving member of a long- established cohort under Baxter, a former captain of the club.
Salvi and fellow former player Moray Low are running a property development company, Tomahawk Homes, and it is thought the business may have had an impact on his club duties.
Salvi was involved in the Champions Cup loss in Munster on 16 April that dumped the 2020 winners Exeter out of Europe, but he did not travel with the team to Saracens.
Baxter has expressed concerns about his side’s defense in recent weeks, including “giving things up too easily” after a home loss to Leicester in March, and that after a good effort at the breakdown while down to 13 men in the Champions Cup first leg at home to Munster, the first defensive set in the away leg seven days later was “so far off what we were achieving last week, in terms of its intensity and its kind of collision quality, that it worried me a little bit.”
After the most recent Saracens setback, Baxter said he was unhappy his team “missed tackles” and “did tactically drip off that toughness, that hardness about refusing to give up the penalties you just don’t need to give up. The non-competitive pens – 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 pen playing a player in the air. They give a team like Saracens a complete release of pressure. “
Exeter have been hit hard by injuries to key players this season, with six England international missing last Sunday. They won the Premiership by beating Wasps in 2017 and again in 2020, the season they added the Champions Cup, and they have reached the last six Premiership play-off finals, losing three times to Saracens and once to Harlequins.
Baxter was unavailable for comment on Thursday, while holidaying abroad in a Premiership bye week for the club.
Exeter are likely to need to win their two remaining fixtures against Bristol and Harlequins, and have other results go their way, to make it into the top-four play-offs.