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Rob Baxter: Exeter Chiefs boss downplays Leinster’s pedigree ahead of Champions Cup quarter-final |  Rugby news


Exeter Chiefs face four-time European champion Leinster in the Champions Cup quarter-finals on Saturday; Leinster has won the previous four meetings against Exeter; Rob Baxter insists the story has limited meaning

Last updated: 07/04/21 21:52 pm

Rob Baxter led Exeter to a Premiership and Champions Cup brace last season

Exeter rugby manager Rob Baxter refuses to dwell on Leinster’s rich European pedigree ahead of Saturday’s Champions Cup quarter-final at Sandy Park.

Defending champions Baxter meet a team that features in the last eight for the 16th time as they pursue a fifth major title on the continental stage.

But Baxter insists the story has limited meaning as Exeter looks to follow up on the Premiership and Europe brace completed in 2019-20.

“It’s a very big challenge, but is it bigger than last season?” said Baxter.

“You have to take a step back and get out of the story of seven, eight, nine or ten years ago.

“Leinster were the first team to play in the Heineken Cup in 2012 and there was a bit of an underestimation from them. They slipped 9-6 to Ireland.

Rob Baxter: Exeter Chiefs boss downplays Leinster’s pedigree ahead of Champions Cup quarter-final |  Rugby news

Leinster has won all of their previous Champions Cup games against Exeter, the last in 2017

“Since then we’ve met a few times and they’ve gotten the better of it, but we’ve moved on to a certain extent.

“I’m not saying we come together on an equal footing, but it’s a lot more equal than talking too much about past history.

“If we were to talk about history, Exeter would never be close to a Premiership final or a European Cup. We have now won both.

“So it’s about the here and now and the here and now is what we expect to do well.”

Rob Baxter: Exeter Chiefs boss downplays Leinster’s pedigree ahead of Champions Cup quarter-final |  Rugby news

Toulouse is one of five French clubs in the Champions Cup quarter-finals

Exeter and Sale are the only Premiership clubs to reach the quarter-finals, while five French teams are represented, four of them clashing in the top 14.

Bristol, Wasps and Gloucester all fell in the Round of 16, but Baxter denies the smaller contingent reflects poorly on England’s top flight.

“This is only our third quarter-final so I know how difficult it is to qualify. When you get into the bottom eight in Europe, how many Premiership clubs should there be?” he said.

“We have two in the quarterfinals – one quarter of the clubs. It’s not a bad performance in a bad year. It doesn’t seem so strange to me.

“There are reasons you would love a lot of English clubs out there because it could mean you could make it all the way to the final and never have to leave England.

“In the current climate, with the doubts about travel and hotel stays and the difficulty in organizing these things, that would be nice.”

England winger Jack Nowell continues to recover from a hamstring injury and is set to make his first appearance of the season.

“We’re at that point where you tend to come to Jack Nowell’s recovery where we’ve got the reins on him and we’re holding him back, but he’s there or pretty much there,” Baxter said.

“Jack would say yes, he could play, I would say the story says he could potentially get injured again, so I would say no. That’s how close he is.”

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