Chiefs' attitude at Scarlets is just right for head coach Baxter
EXETER Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter praised his side’s “attitude and commitment” as they kicked off their pre-season programme with a 23-15 victory away to Scarlets.
In the first of three pre-season tests ahead of their seasonal opener at Northampton Saints on September 7, Baxter would certainly have been satisfied as his side brushed aside the Welsh region.
Tries from Damian Welch and Will Carrick-Smith, coupled with kicks from Gareth Steenson and Henry Slade, sealed a workmanlike success for the Aviva Premiership outfit who last season twice overcame the Scarlets in the prestigious Heineken Cup.
“First and foremost we’ve come out of a hard-fought game with a decent victory and feeling pretty good about quite a few things in our play,” said Baxter afterwards.
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“I think unfortunately for ourselves and the Scarlets, conditions dictated that we had to adapt our game somewhat. We probably had to do a bit more kicking, chasing and defending rather than play any multi-phase stuff, so that’s a bit of a shame.
“At the same time, it does test other parts of your game and for large parts I was pretty pleased with how we went. Of course there are things that we will need to work on over the next few weeks, but for a first outing I think we can be relatively happy with how we went about things.”
Baxter added: “For me pre-season is always a big test of attitude and commitment and I thought we showed that pretty well. We were physical in the contact and tackle area; we kept the ball well and in the end we scored a decent amount of points to win the game.”
As expected, Baxter took the opportunity to give a large number of his squad some much-needed game time.
Among those to feature were England Under-20s trio Slade, Sam Hill and Luke Cowan-Dickie. Together with Jack Nowell and Joel Conlon, the trio were part of England’s Junior World Championship winning side this summer and Baxter is expecting big things.
“Our senior squad has got a good amount of young talent in there now,” continued Baxter. “Our average age has come down considerably in the last season or two and that is good for the club moving first.”
With Championship side Bristol next up at Sandy Park this Saturday, followed by another home engagement against Glasgow Warriors the following week, Baxter expects things to crank up another notch. He said: “Everything will become a little bit tougher because we’ve all have a game or two under our belts.”