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Chiefs coach Baxter ready for sprint to the line in Heineken Cup

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 07, 2013

By Mike Baker


Exeter Chiefs coach Rob Baxter cannot wait to play Toulon

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Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter believes his side must get out of the blocks quickly against reigning European champions Toulon at Sandy Park today.

Baxter admits he is rather relishing the chance to swap the marathon of a long Premiership season for a two-game sprint in the Heineken Cup – even if they are both against the side most others would rather avoid.

With an entire constellation of stars at their disposal, Baxter could be excused for peeping through his fingers at the Toulon team sheet, but if he is worried about how best to counter such an irresistible rugby force, he hides it well.

He said: "We look at all our competitions as 200m sprints. We try to fly out of the blocks, hold on in the middle, and see what we get at the end.

"We started very well against Cardiff, had a difficult fixture at Glasgow, but still could have come away with a win there. Now we're taking the bend, as it were, and we have to see what we can get out of it for that home stretch.

"For me, it's about making sure we get something out of these two games, that mean the last two really mean something. I don't care how we get those points, but we have to scrap for everything we can get. It would be fantastic if we can look forward to those last two with something to play for."

That remains a distinct possibility in a group of fine margins and, as yet, no clear leader. Chiefs currently sit atop Pool Two, on points difference from Toulon, with each side in the group having won one, and lost one so far.

So, with small margins looking set to decide who will be seriously eyeing the quarter-finals once the competition resumes in January, Baxter knows Chiefs must not miss a trick either at home today, or in France next weekend.

He said: "We always talk about the key thing in big games is to make sure that you take a full part in the game and that you come out a better player and a better club.

"That's been our mantra for the start, and is what we're going to take into this game.

"We know Toulon are a good side, but we think we're a good side. We haven't managed to drive home a couple of results in recent weeks, but we do feel we're in pretty good form and we are good at home. For me Heineken Cup games are about testing yourselves and just pure excitement. I really look forward to them."

The same could be said for the Sandy Park faithful, who will turn up in excited anticipation of witnessing something special today – and Baxter would love to reward them with it. He said: "I like to say, as a club, we're a little bit crazy, there's nothing wrong that, and I think our supporters embody that as well.

"Really letting your emotions show as a crowd is fantastic, so what we have to do is make sure we bring them into the game."

Baxter has decided to stick with the same starting line-up that was narrowly defeated in last weekend's Premiership match at Bath. The sole change to personnel comes on the bench, where long-serving lock James Hanks comes in for Don Armand.

Exeter Chiefs: Arscott; Nowell, Dollman, Shoemark, Jess; Steenson, Lewis; Moon, Yeandle, Tui; Mumm (capt), Welch; Johnson, White, Ewers. Replacements: Whitehead, Sturgess, Brown, Hanks, Horstmann, Thomas, Slade, Whitten.

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