Baxter wants Chiefs to adapt
August 27, 2010
The hard work is set to begin for Exeter © Getty Images
Exeter Chiefs coach Rob Baxter wants his players to put thoughts of fairytales to one side and focus on the reality of staying in the Premiership.
Baxter spent 14 years playing for the Devon club and after years of trying to gain promotion, he wants more than one season at the top. The Chiefs believe they have the structures in place to maintain their place at the table, and Baxter wants them to adapt without losing their identity.
Exeter begin life in the Aviva Premiership when Gloucester come to Sandy Park on Saturday, September 4, and Baxter says it is the fulfillment of a long held dream.
"The club have wanted to be in the Premiership for a long time," he said. "It is not a fairytale - we didn't wake up one morning and just appear in the Premiership. We have worked very hard for it and we will relish every minute of it. This is part of our plan but it is not the end stage of our plan. Our ambition is to be a big Premiership club. This is hopefully year one.
"You don't put in place the stadium we have, the structure we have and manage to stick at finishing second for as long as we did in the Championship without having some steel in your side.
"The underdog tag is a motivator. The players will want to prove themselves as Premiership players, this is their opportunity and they will have to take it with both hands. We have some players with Premiership experience, we have a large group of players who want to prove themselves in the Premiership and the key is how quickly they can knock themselves in.
"The Cardiff pre-season game was a step up in intensity for us last Saturday but it wasn't something we couldn't handle. That will have to happen on a weekly basis but we won't try to be Gloucester after week one or Leicester after week two. We will have to learn lessons from them, of course, but we have to remain Exeter Chiefs. The clubs who are successful in the Premiership year after year know their identity. That is what gives them their strength."
Exeter's presence in the top flight has not come without controversy, with chief executive Tony Rowe describing the Premiership as an "old boy's club". Although Premier Rugby welcome the commercial and expansion opportunities of having Exeter in the competition, the Chiefs receive 50% less central funding than the other clubs because they are newcomers.
But Rowe said: "We are fighters - it has taken 12 years to get where we are and we are going to stay here."
One man who is ready to welcome the Chiefs is Cornwall native Phil Vickery. The England and Lions prop grew up without top flight rugby in the region, but while he will have to wait until the last day of the season to visit with Wasps, he has highlighted the game as a season highlight already.
"I cannot wait to play down at Exeter," he said. "It will be absolutely brilliant. I would have loved to be a young lad at home, travelling 50 minutes in the car to watch Exeter playing Premiership rugby. It would have been magical. I hope they do themselves justice. I am sure they will. I am positive about Exeter. I don't think it will be an easy place to go."
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