Something many have not considered is the sacrifices made by Premiership players, Rob Baxter was keen to point out about his Exeter players who stand on the brink of a title win. In a press conference this week he noted that sacrifices went beyond simply not going out for a beer.
The pressures extended onto families and the stresses it has caused the club, makes what this side has achieved all the greater. As a result, Baxter described a potential title win for Exeter as “a reward beyond just the standard rugby reward”.
David Challis has got all the lowdown from the Exeter camp before their second final in two weeks. Rob Baxter spoke about the importance of experience, facing an in-form Wasps side and his relief at coming through the Covid testing processes.
Final experiences to serve Exeter well
Exeter can call upon a maximum of fourteen players from when the two sides last met in a Premiership final three years ago. Wasps can rely on just seven. That, coupled with a European final last week and other subsequent Premiership finals, Exeter stand in a strong position.
Baxter commented on this noting that experience “obviously counts for a lot”. However, he was quick to point out the form of his opponents and how they may have timed their run to the final perfectly.
‘If we don’t get ourselves ready for it, the game will be gone very quickly’
Describing Wasps as “the biggest threat outside of ourselves”, Baxter clearly understand the danger to his side. However, he noted Exeter’s own strengths, citing that his side is “well hardened into tough games”.
This brought onto the topic of preparation and rest vs match readiness. Something long-debated in rugby, is it better to play games to prepare for finals or rest up for the big occasion.
Baxter acted characteristically coy on the topic. He noted “the prep will always be a hindsight decision” and that “a lot of the time it doesn’t really come down to that”.
Exeter’s Director of Rugby is correct of course in that whichever way the final goes, the winning side’s preparation will be heralded. However, now that Wasps have had their preparation disrupted by positive tests, the fielding becomes a lot more even.
One positive note for Exeter fans is that Baxter expects to be fully firing come Saturday. No injures to report other than the usual “bumps and bruises” so the Chiefs should be good to go.
With all the drama this week who are you backing to win the #GallagherPremFinal now??
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) October 21, 2020
Baxter relieved final will go ahead against Wasps
It was only on Wednesday that the finalists were confirmed for the Premiership final. This was due to Wasps reported a number of positive Covid tests last week.
To the disgust of fans, the alternative would have seen Bristol take Lee Blackett‘s side’s place. A situation that would have pleased no one but one sides’ agreed to at the start of the season.
Baxter admitted that this decision occurred due to the need for the game to happen for financial reasons. In the absence of no other alternative, this was thought to be the best option despite fan backlash.
As a result of this uncertainty, both teams’ preparation has probably had left something to be desired. Baxter noted his side had not “pushed too much prep on either Wasps or Bristol” knowing that either was a possibility.
Exeter clearly hold the favourites tag as European Champions. However, the Wasps enigma has continued to roll forth. No doubt a fully firing Exeter side win this one. However, a European hangover always remains a possibility and with that the chance for Wasps to pounce.
One feels a coach with Baxter’s quality will get his side in the right frame of mind for the weekend. However, the margins will undoubtedly be small on Saturday making for a thrilling finale.
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