Exeter primed for Toulouse test, says Baxter

London (AFP) –


Exeter Chiefs know there is still a job to be done and are not resting on their laurels after reaching their first European Champions Cup semi-final, says director of rugby Rob Baxter.

The Chiefs host French four-time winners Toulouse on Saturday with a potential double on the cards, having secured their place in the English Premiership play-offs.

Former Exeter player Baxter, who has been in charge at the club since 2009, said there was a determination to go further.

"There is a genuine understanding amongst the players that it cannot be relief at being in a semi-final, it has to be a challenge," he said at his pre-match press conference on Wednesday.

"It does not feel that we were relieved to get past Northampton (in the quarter-finals) and reach the semi-finals. We were relieved to get past them for different reasons, namely because we were favourites."

"There is no feeling in this club that that is enough and that the players are wearing big smiles on their faces having won the lottery," he added.

"There is a feeling there is still a job to be done."

Baxter said past experiences in Premiership play-off semi-finals and finals would serve his players well.

Exeter won the English top-flight for the first time in their history in 2017 but lost out to Saracens in the following two years.

"The good thing is we have actually been very open and assessed the wins and losses," he said.

"The players involved understand the emotional difference of getting to the final being a stepping stone and actually your performance justifies you being there."

Despite the enormity of the game on Saturday, Baxter does not believe it is the biggest game in the club's history.

"The reality is history happens in steps," said the 49-year-old. "Still probably the time that defined us more than anything else were some of the games getting us out of the championship (2009/10), that was the biggest.

"You don't have to look back into the history to see that was a great step as it took over 100 years to achieve, depending how you want to look at it, getting into the Premiership."

- 'Pressure games' -

Baxter said he looked at the Toulouse game as being the next marker of the club's progress.

"Staying there (in the Premiership) has been relatively simple," he said. "I don't look as this as the biggest game in our history but the next challenge.

"We won the Premiership in a 10-year period and now having got to the European semi-finals is the next biggest challenge."

Baxter does not fear the experience of Toulouse, who been European champions four times, though the last of those triumphs came in 2010.

"We have a lot of players with experience in semis and finals in the Premiership, in some cases as many as other clubs," he said. "We have experience of pressure games.

"We should be relatively well set as we have got through previous games extremely well emotionally and physically."

Baxter sees danger from Toulouse across the pitch from scrum-half Antoine Dupont to South Africa's World Cup-winning wing Cheslin Kolbe.

"The best thing to do is to stop them before he (Kolbe) gets the ball," said Baxter.

"We have to try and limit the supply of ball because obviously when Toulouse get him the ball he is on the front foot and has space so we have to hold up the momentum in the middle of the field.

"You can do things in terms of defensive organisation so as not to allow him one step, beat defender and he's gone."