Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter has described Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup Pool 2 decider against 2018 semi-finalists Munster Rugby at Thomond Park as “a fantastic test” for his side.
Pool 2 is finely poised, with leaders Munster four points ahead of second-placed Exeter Chiefs, after both sides notched bonus-point victories in Round 5 over Gloucester Rugby and Castres Olympique respectively.
That left Exeter knowing they will need either a full five-point haul on Saturday and to stop Munster from picking up more than one bonus point, or a four-point win without Munster collecting any bonus points.
No wonder Baxter is viewing the clash at a sold-out Thomond Park – which is live on free-to-air TV (Channel 4 & Virgin Media) from 17:30 GMT – as “a knockout game”.
⚠ “It’s a straight shootout and that’s the way we are looking at it" ⚠
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) January 16, 2019
“We have done the most important thing, which is get to the last stage of the pool effectively in a knockout game,” said the Exeter boss in his press conference earlier this week.
“It is not as simple as that, because we have to do more than just win the game. We have to collect at least a four-point gap to get level with Munster, but we have given ourselves a definite something to go over there and play for.
“We can genuinely talk this week about going and testing ourselves in one of Europe’s iconic venues against one of Europe’s iconic teams in as close to a knockout as we could get.
“It is going to be a fantastic test for us and great to see which players want to stand up and fight. The biggest thing for us is to get emotionally recharged.”
An inspired performance from the returning @nowellsy15 saw the hosts to a crucial bonus-point win 5⃣✅
Match highlights 🎥👇 pic.twitter.com/6NjfrXXM9E
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) January 15, 2019
Baxter was handed a boost in Round 5 with the return of England utility back Jack Nowell, who scored a try in a Heineken Man of the Match display.
“It was great to see guys like Jack Nowell back playing so well,” said Baxter about the 25-year-old. “We saw Jack picking and going and getting his hands on the ball, way more than a full-back normally would. It suited him the way the game went.
“Jack can play pretty much anywhere across the back line. When we are playing that relatively high-tempo game, it doesn’t really matter what number is on his back.”