Exeter Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter is hoping that the English club can qualify for the knockout stages of the European Cup for only the second time next season.
So far, in their six appearances in the competition, they have reached the last eight only once – in 2015/16, when they lost 25-24 to Wasps – but Baxter is optimistic the 2019 Gallagher Premiership runners-up can rectify that anomaly in 2019/20 after last week’s draw.
They were pitted against Scottish side Glasgow Warriors, Premiership rivals Sale Sharks and La Rochelle, the French team who finished runners-up in last term’s Challenge Cup, in Pool 2.
“It’s a good draw for us,” Baxter told the Chiefs’ website. “At the same time, I want us to start setting ourselves these challenges of being a top European side.
“We’ve been guilty in the past of not quite reaching our potential within this competition, but hopefully that will change this season.
“Yes, it’s another tough group when you look at it on paper, but this is the top competition in Europe, so there shouldn’t be any easy games in there. I’m sure the other teams will be looking at this pool and thinking it’s not going to be easy, especially with Exeter in there.”
— Exeter Chiefs (@ExeterChiefs) June 19, 2019
It means a quick return to Scotstoun for full-back Stuart Hogg, who has joined Exeter after nine years with Glasgow.
Baxter commented: “It was almost destined that with us having signed Stuart from Glasgow this season, that he would end up facing them in Europe. I think he even predicted it himself in an interview!
“Having played Glasgow in the past, we know they will pose a tough challenge to us. They have a team packed with Scottish internationals and are a team, a bit like ourselves, who really like to attack.
“A couple of years ago, we got the better of them here in the early rounds, but then they got their own back on us by beating us in that final-round game up in the snow.”
A tricky homecoming for one of Scotland's finest 👊
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) June 22, 2019
That has been Exeter’s only win over Glasgow so far in four meetings, but on the two occasions they have met La Rochelle – in the 2014/15 Challenge Cup – they have triumphed.
Baxter added: “It’s been a few years since we faced them in the Challenge Cup. Again, they will be a different beast to what they were back then.
“As for Sale, every year when you look at the fixture list, you always know going up there is one of your toughest away days.”