We must make Leicester clash all about us, says Exeter Chiefs coach Baxter
Although Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter insists there is never a good time to play Leicester Tigers, he is certain his own men will rise to the challenge this weekend.
With the Six Nations over, Tigers director of rugby Richard Hill must decide when and how quickly to reintegrate his international stars.
As Hill said himself: “It’s a strange training week for us. Some of the lads are fresh and ready to go and the other third have just played five Test matches on the trot.”
There are few such problems for Baxter, who has been able to use the past weeks without a fixture to bring some of his injured men back to fitness.
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But whether this gives his team an advantage at a sell-out Sandy Park tomorrow will only become apparent on the day.
Baxter said: “Is it a good time to play a side when they have six or seven internationals coming back? Yes and no.
“I don’t know if there is ever a good time to play Leicester. They are a good side and one that we’ve looked at closely as we have progressed in the Premiership.
“They have got a lot of good qualities. They are very consistent in terms of where they end up each season. They are consistent performers and achievers.”
Chiefs still have one or two things left to achieve themselves this season. The Devon club are eighth in the table, but remain only eight points behind Northampton Saints in fourth.
Baxter: “It is important for Leicester and very important for us as well. We are at that stage of the season where we want to make it about ourselves and what we want to achieve.
“We are not in danger of relegation but we are in a group that could push on and achieve things – that is fighting to get into the top four or trying to get a Heineken Cup spot.
“Those are things that are attainable for us and I expect us to fight tooth and nail.
“It is still a game where we can go after things and I hope we are very excited about that.”
Chiefs’ last two league games certainly pointed towards a strong finish to the season. a 47-16 win over London Welsh was followed up with a 27-16 success at Harlequins.
Continuing such a positive trend is now the main challenge for Baxter and his squad.
He said: “We understand what was good against London Welsh and what was good against Harlequins and we want to make sure we keep working to keep those qualities.
“If there is anything that has let us down this season, it is that we have shown a little bit of inconsistency.
“We have gone from beating Harlequins at home to letting a game slip away from us at Sale and Bath. That is something we have to keep working at.
“We have to make sure we gather enough points to make the last two games of the season mean something.”