Exeter Chiefs have every right to bask in the afterglow of an emphatic European Rugby Challenge Cup victory but head coach Rob Baxter insists it’s business as usual upon Aviva Premiership Rugby’s return.
The Chiefs will travel to Gloucester Rugby for their first-ever European semi-final in a fortnight’s time after a 48-13 victory over Newcastle Falcons that saw many of their usual suspects rise to the occasion.
Thomas Waldrom, Aviva Premiership Rugby’s top try-scorer, was at it again – and joining him on the scoresheet was captain Dean Mumm, who is dead-set on a superb finish to the season before he departs for Australia.
However there is no rest to be had at this stage of the season and with just four Aviva Premiership Rugby games to go, the visit of Northampton Saints to Sandy Park this weekend keeps Exeter grounded in reality.
If all goes to plan the Chiefs could well appear in three finals this year – having narrowly lost their LV= Cup crown to Saracens already – and Baxter insists his side have the big-game mentality to make that a distinct possibility.
“If you want to be a good side you want to be in finals and semi-finals and finals and to have those big Premiership games coming up,” Baxter told the club website.
“Some say it makes it a tough schedule for us, but for me I’m just excited to get the boys in on Monday and keep aiming for things.
“I’ve said to them in the changing rooms, we won’t do anything different now, we’ll just get after the Northampton game as hard as we can on Sunday then we’ll re-assess and go after the Gloucester game as hard as we can the week after.
“I think if you look at where we are now, getting to the final of the LV= Cup, being at the top-end of the table and now moving through to the semi-final of a European competition, it shows throughout the course of the season so far that we have been consistent in a successful way and things are there for us to play for, which is exciting.”
The Chiefs’ Aviva Premiership Rugby form took a dent last time out, falling at the hands of Leicester Tigers who promptly leapfrogged them into fourth.
Wasps and Sale Sharks are also on the outside looking in at the moment as far as the semi-finals are concerned but nevertheless harbour realistic hopes of climbing into the top four.
And with the way the table is, Baxter concedes Exeter cannot afford to think ahead to their European date at Kinsgholm just yet.
“It’s always fantastic going to play at Kingsholm because there is always a fantastic atmosphere up there,” Baxter added. “It’s a big thing for them to play for now, especially when you look at the way you qualify for the Champions Cup with the seventh placed play-off, but it’s also very important for ourselves.
“(Northampton) in itself is a huge game for us and once we get that game out of the way, then we’ll start to worry about going to Gloucester.”
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