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Baxter: Big season for Exeter Chiefs’ young guns

Rob Baxter has backed Ollie Devoto and Exeter Chiefs’ young international stars to shine as they prepare to take on Wasps in their Aviva Premiership Rugby opener.

Wasps and Chiefs played out a classic encounter in the European Champions Cup quarter-final last year before meeting again in the Aviva Premiership Rugby last four, and the two sides lock horns once more at the Ricoh Arena on Sunday.

Baxter has a squad blessed with youthful internationals including Jack Nowell, Henry Slade, Luke Cowan-Dickie, with Devoto joining from West Country rivals Bath Rugby in the summer.

Devoto has one Test cap and Baxter says he is looking forward to watching the 22-year-old centre develop, while he also picked powerful three-quarter Sam Hill as one to watch.

“Ollie started 16 games for Bath last year, he is a young guy who has been moving on and probably needed a fresh challenge,” Baxter said.

“The age-profile of our guys is a good fit for him and he is a good fit for us. It has worked out well for ourselves and Ollie, I don’t think he needs rejuvenating, I am looking forward to him continuing to develop.

“He is an energetic, pretty keen rugby player and we want to push him as far as he can go.

“Those guys – Slade, Nowell, Devoto – are going to have to have big seasons, they are getting better all the time. Devoto should continue to improve.

“We are in no doubt that if we’re going to have a successful season then they have to perform.

“You have three young guys there who are in the right age group to just keep getting better. Sam Hill has looked electric in pre-season, he is looking as sharp as I have ever seen him.

“I do like the make-up of our backline and the options we have got there.”

Baxter can also boast Australian internationals in Dave Dennis, Greg Holmes and Lachie Turner, but with only minor changes to the squad, last season’s Aviva Premiership Rugby finalists can kick on from their best ever season.

“Dave and Greg are picking things up very quickly, they are experienced, intelligent players,” the 45-year-old said.

“We don’t feel like we’re having to teach people new stuff, most of what we’re doing is trying to accelerate forward where we were.

“We have spent a lot of time just tweaking what we did and hopefully that will be the drive for another successful season.”

 

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