Rob Baxter: Exeter face challenge to retain European Champions Cup says boss


Exeter’s 2020 Champions Cup final win was their first-ever European title

Exeter boss Rob Baxter says his side will face a tough challenge if they are to defend their Champions Cup title.

Reports suggest the group stage could be abandoned with the 16 best-ranked sides going into a knockout tournament.

Exeter are ranked seventh in their pool and could face a high-ranked side from the other group of teams.

“If our only option to be in the Heineken Cup is a straight knockout we’ll certainly take it,” Baxter said.

“Obviously we’re relatively low within that group of 16 so we’ll almost certainly be travelling away, but it is what it is.

“We’re just hopeful it can resume in some way and whoever we travel to it’s going to be a challenge.”

If the top side from one pool were to play the lowest-ranked side from another, Exeter could face a trip to Premiership runners-up Wasps – a side who have beaten the Chiefs heavily in their last two visits to the Ricoh Arena. Baxter’s side also lost their first-ever Champions Cup knockout game to them in 2016.

Baxter’s side, like the rest of the Premiership, have the next two weekends off after Premiership Rugby announced they would not bring forward any fixtures to fill the void left by the European postponements.

It will mean players including Stuart Hogg and Facundo Cordero should be fit from hamstring injuries in time to face Worcester in their next game on 30 January, while captain Joe Simmonds could also be in line to play having injured ankle ligaments in the loss to Bristol on Saturday.

“We’ve just got to adjust ourselves and get ready for maximising this couple of weeks’ break and getting ourselves refreshed and excited and ready to get back in the Premiership in a couple of weeks,” Baxter added to BBC Radio Devon.

“The one thing we’re learning at the moment is things need to be changed relatively quickly.

“This has happened relatively quickly and we’ve just got to get on with it.

“The Covid situation has to take precedence, and because it has to take precedence we just have to get on with it.”

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