Baxter eyes London Welsh threat
July 4, 2012
Exeter Chiefs' head coach Rob Baxter leads his club into the Heineken Cup for the first time this season © Getty Images
Exeter Chiefs coach Rob Baxter has already got one eye on round three of the Aviva Premiership fixture list, when he takes his side to the Kassam Stadium to meet top-flight newcomers London Welsh.
The club is continuing to enjoy the buzz of success from last season after they finished fifth and qualified for the Heineken Cup in only their second season in the top flight. They play Sale Sharks at home and Northampton Saints away in their first two matches before the match in Oxford. Having only come up to the Premiership in 2010 and flourished Baxter can see parallels with Exeter's own first season in the top division.
"We know probably better than any other side in the division how fantastic the Premiership is for any side, especially one who has just been promoted," Baxter said. "They will have a group of players desperate to prove themselves at this level - just like we had a similar group who achieved a huge amount in that first year. I can kind of see London Welsh doing the same. They've had to fight their way through, they are there for the first time and those kind of things can add a real strength to a side. We know going there will be tough for us."
First up though Exeter will try to maintain their run of opening day wins, when Sale visit Sandy Park. The north-west side have bolstered their ranks over the summer with new signings Danny Cipriani and Richie Grey and Baxter is well aware of the threat they pose.
"We're like all the teams I guess, you wait for the fixtures to come out and at first glance you say 'it's going to be tough," he said. "We've said that for the last two years now and it's exactly the same again. There is no denying that Sale have had a little bit of a shake-up in the coaching department and brought in a couple of high-profile players in Danny Cipriani and Richie Grey, so it's going to be a tough first fixture for us. The priority for us is more about making sure we hit that first week in the best form we can and then looking to accrue as many points early on as we can."
Matches against Sale Sharks hold good memories for Exeter as the Devon side have finished victorious on every previous meeting in the top flight and in the most recent fixture in March Exeter ran out 37-12 victors. However, with the north-west side moving to the Salford City Stadium and the club starting a new era under chief executive Steve Diamond and head coach Bryan Redpath, Baxter is well aware that a win will not be easy to achieve.
"They are looking to build something a little bit different up there with their move to a new ground and what they are looking to get out of each season progressively," Baxter said. "They qualified for the Heineken Cup, as we did last season, and they showed some good form at times. There is no doubt Sale are one of the improving sides in the Premiership in terms of their squad and the way they are looking to play."
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