Gloucester have confirmed the signing of Cardiff and Wales scrum-half Tomos Williams from the start of next season.

Gloucester’s director of rugby George Skivington said he was thrilled to seal a deal with Williams, who has won 53 caps for his country and played in two World Cups.

“Everyone at the club is thrilled to welcome a player of Tomos’ calibre,” said Skivington.

“Anybody that has watched him play before, whether that be for Cardiff or for Wales, knows how much of an attacking threat he can be, and we’re excited to see what he can bring to Gloucester Rugby.”

Williams progressed through Cardiff’s junior and academy systems and has amassed over 100 appearances for the United Rugby Championship side.

He admitted it was a big decision to leave but believes it is the “right time” to test himself in the Guinness Premiership.

“I’m really grateful to Cardiff for everything they have given me in my career,” Williams said on Cardiff’s official website.

“This club is all I have known and after 11 years with the first-team squad, I feel the time is right to make a change.

“I am excited for a new chapter with Gloucester but remain 100 per cent committed to Cardiff and will always look back on my time here with great fondness.”

Owen Farrell’s service to English rugby has given him the right to leave Saracens on his own terms, according to Jamie George.

Farrell has held talks with Racing 92 over a move to the Top 14 leaders at the end of the season in a shock development that has come in the wake of his decision to miss the Six Nations in order to prioritise his mental wellbeing.

By departing for Paris, the nation’s record point scorer, talisman and veteran of 112 caps would become ineligible for selection by Steve Borthwick.

George is a leading candidate to replace the 32-year-old as England captain and, while he hopes his long-term team-mate stays at Saracens, he insists any move would come with the Gallagher Premiership champions’ blessing.

“The news was as much a shock to us as it was to everyone. It’s all speculation at the minute so I don’t know any more,” Funding Circle ambassador George said.

“Like when he decided to take a step back from international rugby, for me what Owen is doing is prioritising himself and his family.

“He’s a very intense guy and I don’t blame him for stepping back from the international game and out of the spotlight for a little bit.

“If he believes that going abroad is the best thing for him and his family, I would be very supportive of that.

“Obviously he would be a very big loss to everyone at Saracens because of the player and character he is, but there’s no guarantee that he is going.

“He’s given so much to the club, so much to the game and so must to English rugby as a whole.

“He deserves to make his own decision and whatever he decides to do he has the full support of everyone at the club.”

Unless Borthwick opts for a leftfield pick, either George, George Ford or Ellis Genge will lead England in their Six Nations opener against Italy on February 3.

 

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George, the nation’s undisputed first choice hooker who is set to be offered a ‘hybrid contract’ by the Rugby Football Union, has previously captained Saracens and the Lions.

 

“I’m hugely flattered to be in the conversation,” said George, who is poised to recover from a neck injury in time to face Bordeaux on Sunday.

“Obviously I’ve played with Owen my entire life so captaincy is something that has always fallen to him, and rightly so because he’s incredible.

“I have led teams before so it is something that I would really embrace and really enjoy.

“But regardless of who it’s given to, they will have my full support. I don’t see it changing who I am or how I am in and around camp, regardless.”

George has been involved in the creation of Team England Rugby Ltd, a new company that will replace the Rugby Players’ Association to negotiate with governing bodies on contracts and commercial matters.

“We’ll definitely still be working with the RPA in terms of welfare and we’ll be encouraging all the England players to still be members of the RPA because they do brilliant things,” George said.

“It isn’t anything to do with money. Team England is a non-profit organisation. We are not saying we are badly paid, we are fully aware that we’re well paid for what we do.

“But ultimately we want the players to be at the forefront of Team England day in, day out.”

– Jamie George is an ambassador for Funding Circle. For more information on Funding Circle and its range of financial products, see: https://www.fundingcircle.com/uk/

Former Scotland captain Mike Blair announced his retirement from international rugby on this day in 2013.

Blair made the decision in order to focus on life in France, where he was playing for Brive, while also allowing Scotland to uncover fresh options at scrum-half in time for the 2015 World Cup.

Stepping down from the world stage as a 31-year-old, he had made 85 appearances for the team and led the side 14 times.

“I’m in the very fortunate position of being able to decide myself when my international career ends. For me, that time is now,” said Blair, who retired despite remaining a regular starter.

“The fact that I still feel attuned to playing at international level has made the decision harder, but it’s not been reached lightly and I’m very confident that it’s the right decision.”

The 2009 British and Irish Lions tourist spent only one season at Brive and after two years with Newcastle, he joined Glasgow before his playing career ended in 2016.

England have yet to finalise the details of their ‘hybrid contracts’ but Steve Borthwick has revealed that setting players’ workload when on club duty will not be among his powers.

Up to 25 of the contracts will be given to leading squad members chosen by Borthwick with the deals worth £150,000 per year and ranging in duration from one to three years.

By providing a guaranteed annual sum in advance rather than paying match fees, it is hoped that England’s stars will be persuaded to stay in the Gallagher Premiership instead of pursuing the greater riches on offer in France’s Top 14.

The contracts will also give Borthwick more say in their conditioning and medical programmes when on club duty, but there are clear limitations to an arrangement which is expected to be approved in the Spring.

“The details are still being worked out but there will be no control of player game time,” said head coach Borthwick, who will also be unable to influence what position an England international fills when in action in the Premiership.

“Clearly there is the integrity of the league and we need to make sure the players are available for that. But there is also the understanding that England have the best players available when they are needed.

“We have got to make sure we find a system that works and we all want to see the best players playing for both club and country.

“We have outlined positions where we don’t have huge depth and we want to see the best players for club and country in those positions.

“The clubs want the best players playing and if you look at the minutes and compare them to teams such as Ireland, who have a different system, then since the World Cup the England players have played a lot of minutes.

 

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“How we get this system right is still being worked out but this is definitely a step in the right direction as we find the right solution.”

Borthwick names his squad for the Six Nations on January 17 and will be looking for a better performance than last year’s championship when England managed only two victories and finished fourth.

For the Red Rose boss it feeds into a bigger picture of underachievement in the competition.

“This is a special tournament. Now we’ve got some way to go. England in the last six years in the Six Nations have won 50 per cent of the games,” Borthwick said

“In four of those six years, England only won two games in the Six Nations. What England have done in recent Six Nations hasn’t been good enough so we’ve got work to do.

“I love this tournament and I want England competing again at the end of it for being at the top of the table.”

Saracens boss Mark McCall insists the Gallagher Premiership champions will fight to keep Owen Farrell after it emerged the England captain has held talks with Racing 92.

Farrell could conclude his 15 years as a regular in Saracens’ first team at the end of the season if he signs for the Top 14 leaders, who have released a statement denying an agreement has been reached.

The 32-year-old has already stood himself down from the Six Nations in order to prioritise his mental wellbeing and should he sign for Racing he will become ineligible for England selection.

McCall, speaking after Saracens’ 19-10 defeat at Leicester, admitted he wants Farrell to remain at StoneX Stadium, although he refused to elaborate further on news that has sent shockwaves through English rugby.

“I think having Owen Farrell in your team is what everybody would want,” director of rugby McCall said.

“It’s just not fair on anyone to talk about something that is speculation. Until there’s something to talk about, we’re not going to talk about it.”

Speaking before the game, McCall insisted that he would not begrudge any senior player if they wanted to leave north London.

“I can understand that when players have had long careers at one club, they would want to experience something different,” he told TNT Sports.

“There are a lot of good things coming out of the Premiership and we shouldn’t be talking it down. There are a lot of good clubs.

“We’re in the middle of transition and we have some players who have been at the club for a long time and who are nearing the end of the careers and we want to send them off with a bang.”

Along with his team-mates, Farrell endured a difficult afternoon in the East Midlands with mistakes by the skipper leading directly to two of Leicester’s three tries.

It produced Saracens’ fifth Premiership defeat of the season – equalling their entire total of losses for their 2022-23 campaign – and registered a third defeat in four matches in the competition.

“Owen went well. Like he always does, he led from the front and he had a good game. He’s very good at putting distraction to one side and we saw that again here,” McCall said.

“We don’t want to be losing matches, obviously. We want to play better than we’re playing. We haven’t quite had the season that we want – that’s obvious too.”

Leicester were impressive with commitment and intelligence stamped all over a hard-fought win that keeps them in seventh place but hints at better things ahead.

“We felt pretty comfortable and came away with a good four points,” Tigers head coach Dan McKellar said.

“When teams come here they know it’s going to be a physical battle and that’s what we wanted to give Saracens. They’re a quality side so we’re pleased.”

Saracens’ torrid weekend that began with revelations over Owen Farrell’s possible move to Racing 92 continued with a 19-10 Gallagher Premiership defeat at Leicester.

Farrell’s champions struggled on a hard-fought afternoon in the East Midlands with the England captain powerless to prevent a third league defeat in four matches.

News he has been in talks with Racing 92 over joining the Top 14 leaders next season emerged on Friday, sending shockwaves through Saracens and the Premiership even if an agreement has yet to be reached.

Farrell is England’s biggest star who has spent 15 years at StoneX Stadium, but a move to Paris would make him ineligible for the national side and land another blow on the credibility of a competition experiencing an exodus of players across the Channel.

If he does head to the French capital, on recent evidence he will be departing a troubled Saracens with their latest loss registering a fifth Premiership defeat of the season – their total for the whole of the 2022-23 campaign.

Errors by the 32-year-old contributed to two of Leicester’s three tries but Tigers also made life difficult for the visitors, their determination stamped all over an impressive display.

Farrell’s early contributions were with the boot when stationed deep inside his own half as Saracens faced an early onslaught from the hosts, but in the 12th minute he made a significant blunder.

Flinging out a pass intended for Elliot Daly, the ball was instead picked off by centre Dan Kelly who cantered over for the opening try.

Saracens hit back with a long-range try inspired by Daly’s athleticism that was finished by Tom Parton and, having landed the conversion, the England fly-half delivered successive pinpoint kicks that forced Leicester to scramble.

Having nudged Saracens five points ahead with a penalty, he then dropped a simple pass and kicked a ball straight into touch, inviting Tigers to attack from the edge of the 22.

With waves of Leicester runners building pressure, the visiting defence cracked with Matt Rogerson crashing over to open a 12-10 lead.

Kelly had a second try in which he outhustled Daly controversially chalked off and the frantic pace continued into the second half with both sides going close to scoring.

Leicester turned down three routine points in favour of going for the corner and they began hammering away at the whitewash, gaining the advantage of Maro Itoje’s departure to the sin-bin for not retreating 10 metres.

Saracens’ scrum was stood up and, with the white shirts buckling before the repeated attacks, quick hands delivered the key moment with Harry Simmons finishing in the right corner.

Leicester now had the cushion to close out the game and they did this in solid fashion to leave the visitors positioned in sixth place in the table.

Racing 92 have denied England captain Owen Farrell is close to joining the Top 14 club.

The Saracens fly-half, who is missing the Six Nations to look after his mental heath, is reportedly poised for a move to France.

Racing 92 are coached by former England chief Stuart Lancaster, who gave Farrell his international debut in 2012.

A Racing statement said: “Racing 92 is regularly under the aegis of numerous speculations concerning movements within its workforce.

“We are delighted with the appeal of our club Racing 92. However, we deny any agreement concerning the English player Owen Farrell.”

Farrell became England’s leading points scorer at the World Cup and is reportedly out of contract at Saracens at the end of the season.

The 32-year-old has spent all of his career at the club but could now make a surprise move to France.

He has also given England coach Steve Borthwick no indication he plans to return. Farrell is also likely to be unavailable for the summer tour to Japan and New Zealand.

“We are all hopeful Owen will return to the England team at some point soon, but that’s going to be a decision Owen makes,” Borthwick said.

“Owen and I spoke right at the end of the World Cup. We were actually in Paris. We took a walk and he shared some of his thoughts and what he was thinking at that point in time.

“Then he took a period of reflecting and we met a couple of weeks later and he told me of his decision to step away. He expressed some of his feelings, which is clearly a confidential conversation.

“The first thing I’ll say there is I’m full of admiration for this guy – as a man, a player and a leader. It takes a lot of courage to do what he’s done.”

Saracens have been approached for comment.

England captain Owen Farrell is close to joining Top 14 club Racing 92, according to reports.

The Saracens fly-half, who is missing the Six Nations to look after his mental heath, is reportedly poised for a move to France.

Racing 92 are coached by former England chief Stuart Lancaster, who gave Farrell his international debut in 2012.

Farrell became England’s leading points scorer at the World Cup and is reportedly out of contract at Saracens at the end of the season.

The 32-year-old has spent all of his career at the club but could now make a surprise move to France.

He has also given England coach Steve Borthwick no indication he plans to return.

Farrell is also likely to be unavailable for the summer tour to Japan and New Zealand.

“We are all hopeful Owen will return to the England team at some point soon, but that’s going to be a decision Owen makes,” Borthwick said.

“Owen and I spoke right at the end of the World Cup. We were actually in Paris. We took a walk and he shared some of his thoughts and what he was thinking at that point in time.

“Then he took a period of reflecting and we met a couple of weeks later and he told me of his decision to step away. He expressed some of his feelings, which is clearly a confidential conversation.

“The first thing I’ll say there is I’m full of admiration for this guy – as a man, a player and a leader. It takes a lot of courage to do what he’s done.”

Saracens have been approached for comment.

Owen Farrell’s future with England remains uncertain after Steve Borthwick revealed he has been given no indication by his captain that he plans to return.

Farrell will miss at least the Six Nations in order to prioritise his and his family’s mental wellbeing following last autumn’s World Cup in France, during which the Saracens fly-half was repeatedly booed by supporters at games.

With Farrell also likely to be unavailable for the summer tour to Japan and New Zealand, there is the possibility that the bronze final victory over Argentina in November was the 32-year-old’s final Test for England.

When asked if Farrell will play for England again, Borthwick replied: “I’m really hopeful he does.

“We are all hopeful Owen will return to the England team at some point soon, but that’s going to be a decision Owen makes.

“Owen and I spoke right at the end of the World Cup. We were actually in Paris. We took a walk and he shared some of his thoughts and what he was thinking at that point in time.

“Then he took a period of reflecting and we met a couple of weeks later and he told me of his decision to step away. He expressed some of his feelings, which is clearly a confidential conversation.

“The first thing I’ll say there is I’m full of admiration for this guy – as a man, a player and a leader. It takes a lot of courage to do what he’s done.

“I made it really clear there’s no pressure on him, that it’s his decision to be made at the time that’s right for him.”

Borthwick is dismayed by the number and viciousness of online trolls at the World Cup, insisting the vitriol Farrell faced mirrors the growing mistreatment of some high profile figures in the game.

Farrell was caught in the eye of the storm following his red card for a dangerous tackle against Wales in August, a decision that was overturned and then reinstated in reaction to a public outcry.

Meanwhile, referees Wayne Barnes and Tom Foley have spoken of the influence online abuse had on their recent decisions to retire after the World Cup.

“In England alone we’ve seen a player – a captain – and two match officials step away at the top of their game because of certain issues,” Borthwick said.

“There are societal issues that are going on here. The online hate that is spread is not OK, it’s not right.

“For people to have to endure that, their families to have to endure that, to drive people out of the game, is just appalling.

“I don’t have the answers to it but I do know it’s wrong and they’re not true rugby fans that are saying this stuff.

“None of us expected what happened at that World Cup in that area, or for it to be at that level of vitriol against certain people and certain teams.”

A new England captain will be appointed later this month with Jamie George, George Ford and Ellis Genge leading candidates, but Borthwick ruled out an approach to Courtney Lawes.

Lawes announced his international retirement at the end of the World Cup but has been in superb form for Northampton so far this season.

“Courtney’s been playing really well but he was pretty clear to me about his step,” Borthwick said.

Kevin Sinfield will step down as Steve Borthwick’s England number two after the summer tour to Japan and New Zealand.

Sinfield has overseen the defence since his appointment by Borthwick in December 2022, but in the wake of the recent World Cup in France the former Leeds rugby league great has decided to move on.

The 43-year-old will remain in place for the Six Nations and the three Tests arranged for June and July, but in a new role overseeing skills and kicking with the incoming Felix Jones taking charge of the defence.

Borthwick declined to disclose any details over Sinfield’s future plans in the first backroom reshuffle of his year-long reign.

“Kev made the decision over what he wanted to do,” Borthwick said. “At the end of the World Cup, there was space for every member of the management to reflect as we look ahead to the next World Cup cycle.

“After a big tournament like the World Cup, every member of the management team needed the opportunity to relax, decompress, reflect and spend some time with friends and family.

“A couple of weeks later, Kev and I met and he gave me his decision. Kev’s decided that longer-term he’s going to head in a different direction away from the England rugby team.

“Ahead of the autumn series, Kev will not work with the team then, he will move away from the team and in a different direction.”

England endured a challenging Six Nations with the lowest ebb being a record defeat at Twickenham in March, with France breaching Sinfield’s defence seven times in a 53-10 rout.

There were highs and lows during the World Cup warm-up matches and the tournament itself, and England’s defence was its best during the agonising 16-15 World Cup semi-final defeat by South Africa, leaking only one try to the eventual champions.

“I’m just grateful that’s he added so much value over these 12 months and that he’s going to stay with the team for the Six Nations and the summer tour,” said Borthwick, who had also appointed Sinfield to his Leicester managed team.

“Kev’s role and what he’s added as we’ve reset the team, you can’t overstate the value he’s brought, what he’s done and the relationships he’s built.

“I’ve changed his role to skills and he will be working specifically on catch-pass skills with the kickers and goalkickers, which he does so very well.”

Former Ireland international Jones takes responsibility for the defence after being recruited from South Africa, having contributed to their triumphant back-to-back World Cup campaigns.

Andrew Strawbridge, New Zealand’s skills coach at France 2023, has been appointed as a consultant for the opening four weeks of the Six Nations.

“If you look at our coaching team now, you’ve got a lot of knowledge of the Premiership, people who coached in the Premiership less than 12 months ago,” Borthwick said.

“Richard Wigglesworth was playing in the Premiership just over a year ago. We’ve got a lot of knowledge of the Premiership and of European rugby.

“Felix has knowledge of the Irish system and the South African system. Andrew joining is brings us the knowledge he has of New Zealand and Super Rugby.

“That’s an exciting blend of coaches and knowledge that we’ve brought together.”

Kevin Sinfield is to step down as England defence coach after the summer tour to Japan and New Zealand.

Sinfield has been Steve Borthwick’s number two since the start of his reign in December 2022 but his time at Twickenham will come to an end after 18 months.

Before he moves on, the Leeds rugby league great will take charge of individual skills and work with the kickers having previously overseen the defence.

“Kevin after the World Cup had a period of reflection, like every member of the management team did,” Borthwick said.

“Kev’s decided that longer-term he’s going to head in a different direction away from the England rugby team.

“He’s going to work with the team through the Six Nations and through the summer tour.

“Ahead of the autumn series Kev will not work with the team then, he will move away from the team and in a different direction.”

When asked to expand on Sinfield’s future plans, Borthwick replied: “Not right now and Kev hasn’t told us. That’s a question you can discuss with Kev in due course.

“I’m just grateful that’s he added so much value over these 12 months and that he’s going to stay with the team for the Six Nations and the summer tour.

“Through this first 12 months, Kev’s role and what he’s added as we’ve reset the team, you can’t overstate the value he’s brought, what he’s done and the relationships he’s built.

“I’ve changed his role to skills and he will be working specifically on catch-pass skills with the kickers and goalkickers, which he does so very well.”

Harlequins prop Joe Marler’s arm injury is being assessed by specialists amid front-row concerns for England ahead of the Guinness Six Nations.

Marler’s fellow loosehead props Ellis Genge, Bevan Rodd, Mako Vunipola and Val Rapava-Ruskin are all currently on the sidelines.

And Quins are awaiting a full medical verdict on Marler, who went off during the Gallagher Premiership victory over Gloucester at Twickenham on Saturday.

England head coach Steve Borthwick has potentially been presented with a major headache just a month before England’s Six Nations opener against Italy in Rome.

His problems include a four-match ban being imposed on Saracens’ Vunipola, who was sent off for a dangerous tackle against Premiership opponents Newcastle.

Although he will be available if required for the Six Nations, experienced campaigner Vunipola cannot play again until after Saracens’ Premiership appointment with Exeter, which is only a week before the Italy clash.

Vunipola missed out on the Rugby World Cup in France, with Borthwick choosing Genge, Marler and Rodd to fill three loosehead slots.

Genge, an England captaincy contender following Owen Farrell’s decision to miss the Six Nations, last featured for his club Bristol on December 2. He has been sidelined due to a hamstring injury.

Sale forward Rodd is out for the rest of this season after undergoing toe surgery and Gloucester’s Rapava-Ruskin, who was part of England’s World Cup training squad last year, is another long-term absentee following a knee operation.

Borthwick will announce his Six Nations squad in the near future, with prop resources seemingly being stretched.

On 88 times-capped Marler, Quins rugby director Billy Millard said: “We had three big injuries in the first-half to three very influential and key decision-makers on the pitch (Marler, Dino Lamb and Stephan Lewies).

“To be totally honest, they are still seeing specialists. I think some of them have turned out alright, but I am still not 100 per cent clear on the three. We are still waiting for total clarity.

“It’s his (Marler’s) arm, but again, they are getting MRIs and there are specialists looking at it and until I am 100 per cent clear I wouldn’t want to speculate.

“God love him, he battled on for a long time, but we have got specialists looking at him as we speak. I doubt very much he will be available for selection (against Newcastle on Friday).

“Fingers crossed, it is only a short-term one. Joe is Joe. He is big for us in so many ways. Hopefully, it is not a long one for him.”

On a positive note, Genge’s situation appears to be improving, with Bristol rugby director Pat Lam stating: “He is back running now, so he is on track.

“He is certainly going to make the Six Nations, whether he makes the start… the most important thing is that he gets back to playing.”

Saracens and England prop Mako Vunipola has received a four-match ban after being sent off against Gallagher Premiership opponents Newcastle.

Vunipola was dismissed during the closing stages of Saturday’s encounter following a dangerous tackle on Newcastle hooker Bryan Byrne.

He will miss Saracens’ Premiership appointments with Leicester and Exeter, plus Investec Champions Cup games against Bordeaux-Begles and Lyon.

Vunipola, though, will be available for England’s Guinness Six Nations opener against Italy in Rome on February 3 if head coach Steve Borthwick decides to recall him.

And that could prove timely, given current injuries to England’s three World Cup squad loosehead props Ellis Genge, Joe Marler and Bevan Rodd.

Vunipola’s case was heard by an independent disciplinary panel.

“The player admitted that foul play took place, but not that it met the red card threshold,” the Rugby Football Union said.

“The panel upheld the charge and Vunipola received a four-match ban.

“He is ineligible to take part in World Rugby’s coaching intervention programme, having completed it in 2022.”

Had Vunipola not already done that programme, he could have applied on this occasion and then expected to have had one game subtracted from the suspension.

England will be without Manu Tuilagi for the start of the Six Nations after he suffered a groin injury in Sale’s Gallagher Premiership victory over Saracens last Friday.

Tuilagi limped off early in the second half with a grade three tear and has been told he faces six weeks of rehabilitation, although he does not require surgery.

The powerful 32-year-old centre, who was a regular in England’s midfield during the recent World Cup, will miss at least the Championship opener against Italy on February 3.

“Manu has pulled his groin and we think he’s going to be back during the Six Nations, but not for the first week,” Sale director of rugby Alex Sanderson said.

“I spoke to him and he’s like ‘I need to play and if I’m good to play it’s up to England regarding selection’.

“He was in the frame before and I’ve stated before his intent to keep playing international rugby.

“Six weeks is the recommended time for the injury and Manu is saying four.”

Tuilagi, who returned from the World Cup with a broken hand, was plagued by a long-term groin problem earlier in his career and more recently has been troubled by damage to both hamstrings.

Sale prop Bevan Rodd will miss the entire Six Nations after undergoing toe surgery.

Exeter maintained their superb home form as they defeated Leicester 29-10 in front of a record crowd at Sandy Park.

An attendance of exactly 15,000 witnessed the Chiefs end their 2023 home campaign in style with a bonus-point win as they stretched their unbeaten Sandy Park run in all competitions to 23 matches, spanning a period of 61 weeks.

It took the Tigers a long time to find their way into the game, despite many of their internationals returning to duty.

They trailed 24-0 early in the second half and, when they finally did fight back, they had left themselves too big a mountain to climb.

Chiefs centre Henry Slade had another an excellent game, once more staking his claim for an England recall for the upcoming Six Nations.

Exeter got off to a dream start with a close-range try after only seven minutes from South African flanker Jacques Vermeulen following a period of intense pressure on the Tigers line, with Slade converting.

Four minutes later they were awarded a penalty try when George Martin was adjudged to have tackled Rory O’Loughlin early to prevent him taking a try-scoring pass from Tom Wyatt and the lead was suddenly 14-0.

The advantage could have been increased even further if Lewis Pearson had not opted to go for glory himself, with two players outside him.

That passage of play saw Chiefs prop Scott Sio and Tigers scrum-half Ben Youngs limp off, soon to be joined by Leicester winger Josh Bassett.

Even referee Tom Foley needed some first-half treatment after getting smacked in the ribs when he inadvertently got in the way of a Leicester attacker.

Chiefs had a try by Jack Yeandle ruled out for a double movement in the 35th minute, but they rammed home their first-half superiority a minute before the break when Slade latched on to a very loose pass from World Cup winner Handre Pollard, who had a first half to forget, and raced 40 metres to score under the posts, leaving the simplest of conversions for a 21-0 interval lead.

Slade put the Chiefs four scores clear 11 minutes into the second half with a penalty as the Tigers collapsed a scrum.

Leicester finally got their first points on the board in the 56th minute when England winger Anthony Watson finished off in the right-hand corner after they had camped on the home line following an initial break by Jasper Wiese. Pollard badly pulled the conversion attempt.

More sustained try-line pressure created a walk-in score for full-back Freddie Steward after former Chiefs centre Solomone Kata’s long pass as Tigers continued their fightback.

However, the conversion was again crucially missed, this time by Jamie Shillcock, leaving them still 14 points adrift.

Exeter were not satisfied with just the win, though, and replacement lock Rusi Tuima forced his way over with the clock in the red to claim the bonus point and provide the perfect finish for the home supporters.

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