Exeter Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter is hoping that his side’s maiden Heineken Champions Cup success last weekend will lead to them becoming the fourth English club to complete the European and domestic double.
He is banking on the experience they gained in resisting a thrilling challenge from Racing 92 at Bristol’s Ashton Gate last Saturday working in their favour when they line up against Wasps in the Gallagher Premiership final at Twickenham this Saturday.
“I would like to think winning on Saturday [against Racing] will allow us to play potentially better than you sometimes do in a final,” he said of the 31-27 victory against the French club.
“You would like to take all the positives out of that, that we have knocked one final off. I am not going to say relax because that would be the wrong word, but we are ready to go with a recent experience of what it takes to win a final.”
That winning feeling 🙌
What was your reaction as that last penalty went over and (eventually) the final whistle went? pic.twitter.com/ZzWKi1OmDM
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) October 19, 2020
Baxter believes that if Exeter do follow in the footsteps of Leicester Tigers (2000/01 and 2001/02), Wasps (2003/04) and Saracens (2015/16 and 2018/19) in landing the prestigious double, it would be extra special because of the restrictions his squad have faced due to the pandemic.
“Completing the double would be a reward beyond just winning trophies this year; it would be a reward for that extra commitment and sacrifice at this time of the year,” he said.
“I think the big thing for me is people still don’t appreciate the sacrifices the players have made through this period. It goes beyond the lads not going out for a beer in town. It goes way beyond that, because the majority of our first-team squad have got wives and extended families, so what you are asking is all of them to change their lives.
“The players don’t just have to be careful around the club. The times they really have to focus on are when they are away from here. That is a big commitment they have made.
“I am sitting there waiting for the tests to come in and they all come in negative. That is a huge credit to the players, who, don’t forget, have just won the biggest game of their lives at club level playing for Exeter on Saturday.
“That is a massive pat on their backs for how they have conducted themselves, not just all season, but after a huge game of rugby.”