Exeter Chiefs head coach Ali Hepher says it was always clear that Fijian international winger Nemani Nadolo had a “bright future ahead of him” during his short time at Sandy Park, writes Nigel Walrond.
The then 23-year-old was released by the Chiefs in May 2011 after only four months at the club, having signed from French Top 14 side Bourgoin.
He made five appearances for the Devon outfit and really caught the eye, but he left the Chiefs by mutual consent the day after he admitted to a drink driving charge at Exeter magistrates’ court, was fined £950 and banned from driving for 18 months.
He also found himself at the centre of a Rugby Football Union disci- plinary hearing while at Sandy Park, after he was mistakenly included in the 27-22 defeat by Leeds.
He was registered at Exeter under an Australian passport and was then picked alongside two other non-Kolpak players a breach of IRB regulations.
The RFU deducted the club two Premiership points and fined them £5,000.
After leaving Exeter, he eventually went on to become a star of Super Rugby with the New Zealand based Crusaders, and is now in his second season with Chiefs’ European Champions Cup opponents today, French side Montpellier.
“He was great when he was with us,” admitted Hepher.
“You could see a bright future for him, there was no question of that.
“He was a big guy with pace, and when he was training with us he was stepping people like a regular back at 100kg, but he is obviously a lot more than that.
“There was that ability there. He
maybe didn’t have an easy route after leaving us, but once he got to the Crusaders and had a run in the team there for a good-quality franchise, you could see the quality he had.
“We knew that was there, and that was why we signed him and brought him to Exeter.
“We just wished it had lasted a little bit longer with us, but things happen, and that presented opportunities for other guys to come through and be stars for us.
“It was a long time ago, it will be good to see him again, and we will have to make sure we look after him well on the pitch.”
Hepher said the aim going into today’s game was to come home with a victory, however tough that might be to achieve against a side unbeaten at home this season, to build on their opening pool win at home to Glasgow Warriors.
“If you can pick up an away win, it does start to throw a really good opportunity at you,” said Hepher.
“We have started well, we have got the win at home, and the important thing now is not let’s wait until round six to try and win the group,we have got to try and get a real foothold in it and be a big part of this group going forward.
“A win away from home does that, and puts you in a great place to go into the double header against Leinster in December, and then obviously those last two rounds in January are going to be important.”