Rob Baxter has provided support for Sam Simmonds after another week went by without an international call up. Speaking ahead of the visit of Bath this weekend Rob Baxter addressed the media to show understanding for the situation of Sam Simmonds but also of Eddie Jones and the England setup.
David Challis caught up with the Exeter Chiefs camp ahead of this weekends clash. Speaking to Ben Moon, Ollie Devoto and Director of Rugby Rob Baxter bringing you the low down on the return of fans, England selection, a wounded Bath and recognition from Princess Anne.
This week Princess Anne wrote to the club congratulating them on their recent doubling winning success. Back in 2007, the Princess opened Sandy Park leading to a connection with the club. Baxter thankful for the comments described them as “another nice piece of recognition”.
👑 ROYAL SEAL OF APPROVAL: HRH The Princess Royal congratulates @ExeterChiefs on their double-winning success of last season pic.twitter.com/cYEVsGd87t
— Exeter Chiefs (@ExeterChiefs) November 24, 2020
Baxter addresses Simmonds’ non-selection
Many have found themselves scratching their heads over Sam Simmonds’ omission from the England squad. However, Baxter provided some rationale giving us an insight into the makeup of a back row.
He noted that with the way Jones looks to select Simmonds needs to “create a scenario where his abilities and his attributes fit into the back five of an England pack”.
Accepting that “the reality is every squad has a makeup” and that Simmonds is “not suddenly going to become Billy Vunipola” means Simmonds may have to wait his turn with England.
However, Baxter was quick to praise his back row and point out that “so many things can change” in a short space of time. He stressed that “if Sam thinks his international career is gone he’d be wrong”.
Clearly, for now, Simmonds finds himself out of the reckoning for England selection. However, if he puts in more hattrick-producing performances eventually he will force Eddie Jones’ hand.
The impending return of fans
News broke this week that we would see the return of fans to stadiums up and down the country. Baxter was naturally thrilled by the prospect noting that “it will be a nice injection of emotion”.
“It will be like moving from park rugby to moving into proper professional rugby”
He went onto say that “it will feel like a step forward” but pointed out that “it will be strange in a way”. Ollie Devoto also noted that the players had got used to playing without fans. He said the players noted the lack of atmosphere in the warm-up, something he looks forward to returning.
He noted that it could take some adjusting although he did say that “when the game has started you are in the zone”. Exeter have focussed on “creating an environment where we are motivating each other” which perhaps will be no longer required when fans return.
Looking ahead to a wounded Bath
Baxter reported a clean bill of health going into this weekend’s fixture. Somewhat surprising given the lack of break this squad has had since the finals of just a few weeks ago.
Ben Moon noted that this lack of a break can have benefits to player readiness though. He said “there are pros and cons” and that “your body becomes not as used to the knocks and the bumps” after a period away from the game.
After Bath’s shock loss to Newcastle last week Baxter was quick to underly the difficulty that this game would entail. He admitted he was surpassed that Bath was unable to win last week. He pointed to games last year against them which he described as “immensely physical”.
Baxter expects a much-improved side to come to Sandy Park this week. He believes Bath “will be more match harden and more match ready” come this weekend.
We will have to wait and see what comes of a repeat of last season’s semi-final. However, in a weekend chocker block of live rugby, it will be a welcome addition to the line-up.
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