Harry Williams joins Exeter Chiefs exodus - report
According to French media, former England prop Harry Williams will join the exodus of first-team players leaving Exeter Chiefs.
France’s premier sports news outlet, L’Equippe, report that the giant 6’4, 133kg tighthead will sign for Montpellier, joining Sam Simmonds and Luke Cowan-Dickie at the big spending Top 14 side.
It seems that MHR head coach Philippe Saint-André – who famously coached Sale Sharks to a Gallagher Premiership title back in 2006 – is continuing his penchant for signing English players.
The signing of Zach Mercer from Bath, who leaves for Gloucester after two seasons at the club, proved tremendously successful for Saint-André and it seems eager to replicate the magic. Williams last featured for England at Test level in a Rugby World Cup warm-up in 2019 and the 31-year-old may well feel that international rugby is now in the rearview mirror in any event.
For Exeter and director of rugby Rob Baxter it’s another hammer blow for a side that are clearly struggling to compete financially with the inflated coffers of French rugby. The Devon-based outfit will also lose Dave Ewers and Jannes Kirsten, who are both officially leaving, while Jack Nowell and Joe Simmonds are also touted to be heading to exit.
Yesterday it was also confirmed that Ruben van Heerden was leaving, with homesickness being a big part of his decision to leave mid-season.
The biggest problem for Exeter appears to be that the club maintained player wages during the pandemic and are now being forced to sign players to new contracts within a £5 million salary cap.
“We’ve got some big challenges from the decision we made two or three years ago to keep the guys on full salary,” Baxter told BBC Sport. “That was always going to cause us problems when they came off contract because they’re all contracted on salaries that were at the £6.4m cap.
“The reality is now when you come off contract it’s a £5m cap.”
It also seems that the former English and European champions are struggling with finances across the board. At the end of last year they were forced into an asset sale due to debt repayments on government loans taken out during the pandemic fill the void created by games being played behind closed doors.
It seems the decisions of the pandemic are now coming back to haunt the side.
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