Rob Baxter hopes Exeter can follow Liverpool’s example and clinch title | Sport

Exeter Chiefs are hoping to copy Liverpool’s patient example and enjoy delayed title satisfaction if and when this season restarts as planned. The Chiefs’ director of rugby, Rob Baxter, has warned, however, that his squad have a harder run-in than Jurgen Klopp’s team and still face a real battle to claim the Premiership trophy.

With nine games of the interrupted regular season still left, Exeter are five points clear at the top of the table and are looking strong. While Baxter is conscious that Liverpool possessed a bigger cushion prior to clinching their first Premier League title in 30 years, he admits football’s resumption has also encouraged Exeter to believe they can finish with a bang.

“Obviously it does,” said Baxter. “If you’re saying ‘Do I have confidence we will do okay?’ the answer is ‘Yes, I do’. The huge difference is that Liverpool could come back and be a bit shaky and still win. We have a slender lead by comparison. We’ve also still got to get into the top four and then win a semi-final and a final. The important thing is to try and keep things in your own hands for as long as possible. We aim to start on fire and get better from there.”

Baxter also anticipates a reshaped Premiership landscape with clubs lower down the table released from the pressure of relegation by Saracens’ hefty points deduction and now free to throw caution to the wind. “Some teams will play completely differently and you’ll have some teams with absolutely nothing to lose. This is a huge opportunity for some clubs to almost restart their squad process. Our first game is against Leicester: are they going to be playing like the Leicester that finished last season or are they going to introduce a load of new stuff? That’s why every game will be so interesting. For us, it is about treating it as a new season. ”

Rob Baxter

Rob Baxter is happy with his players’ likely workload. Photograph: Bob Bradford/CameraSport via Getty Images

Everyone at Exeter, however, knows it is not yet entirely certain Premiership rugby will be able to resume on the weekend of 15 August, particularly if a return to stage 2 training is not possible on Monday week. “For me to sit here and say we are going to be playing in mid-August is ridiculous,” acknowledged Baxter. “There are so many things that have got to happen. You see things on beaches and in Liverpool with them celebrating … there is a lot of close contact happening. If it leads to second spikes or changes in how we are dealing with the Covid-19 situation then things like sport will be changed quicker than anything else.”

Baxter, like everyone else, is also waiting to see precisely what the schedule for the rest of the year looks like, with midweek league games among the possible outcomes. “Some players will absolutely love it, other guys will hate it. Is it too big an ask at this stage of the season after everything that’s happened so far? I don’t think it is, no.”

It is also conceivable the Scotland lock Jonny Gray will be thrust straight into Exeter’s pack if he is fully fit when he officially joins up with the club next week. “If we get him right physically then I would see him being able to play for us from game one,” said Baxter. “I can see all our new guys being available.”

The Wales centre Nick Tompkins will play for Dragons on loan next season but says he plans to return to Saracens thereafter.

Sarries’ 37-year-old scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth, meanwhile, has signed a short-term contract extension to remain at the club for the rest of the current campaign.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *