VIDEO: Rob Baxter targets performance over result against Saints
Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter insists the performance is more important than the result when his side start their Premiership campaign against Northampton Saints today.
The Chiefs have yet to win at Franklin’s Gardens since promotion to the top flight in 2010 but Baxter insists that statistic counts for nothing this weekend.
“I’m not too concerned about it,” he said. “We have had a variety first-up fixtures since we have been in the Premiership. We had Gloucester at home in our first season, we went away to Leicester and then Sale after they made a lot of big-name signings.
“I don’t think there is any easy way in. You are better off having the mind-set that every game is going to be a challenge – that is why we are in it.
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“We do talk about taking little steps and being competitive up at Northampton is one of those little steps for us.
“They are one of the top-four teams in the country and they have been for a long time. We don’t ever build on a season it being the one we beat Northampton or the one we reach the top four, the things we control are how we want to play and we will try and bring that on Saturday.
“I’m not overly concerned about the result if the things we do are what we want. Results in a season tend to sort themselves out if we get the nuts and bolts right.”
Chiefs have performed well in pre-season, for the most part. They beat Scarlets and Bristol but struggled against Glasgow Warriors last weekend, falling to a 29-26 defeat.
That result will do the Devon club no harm, says Baxter.
“It has focused our minds a little bit ahead of the Northampton game,” he said. “Obviously, we’re a little disappointed with the result and some issues within the Glasgow game, but that is what pre-season is about.”
Last season’s good form to the end of the campaign, which helped Chiefs secure a place in the Heineken Cup has been considered by Baxter during his team selection.
They adopt a familiar look to their starting line-up, even though playing resources have been bolstered. Of the newcomers brought in by Baxter during the close season, only Welsh winger Tom James starts from the outset.
Northampton, meanwhile, give debuts to British and Irish Lions Alex Corbisiero and George North against Exeter, with scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i included on the bench.
He said: “I don’t run away from the fact that guys finishing last season on good form, then they often get the nod to start. We will obviously have some disappointed players but the strength of the squad is how the players who aren’t selected respond.
“The best thing about the start of the Premiership season, if you are a player, is that you are going to play every week because there are A League games every week. Players will all get the chance to put their hands up for the following weekend.
“We have picked up a couple of injuries at hooker and second row as we’ve gone along but we will be picking a very strong side.”
Exeter Chiefs: Dollman; Jess, Whitten, Shoemark, James; Steenson, Thomas; Sturgess, Yeandle, Tui; Mumm (capt), Welch; Johnson, Scaysbrook, Ewers. Replacements: Whitehead, Moon, Rimmer, Hayes, White, Lewis, Slade, Hill.