Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter admits he is wary about declaring any top-four ambitions this early in the season, after his side missed out on last year’s Aviva Premiership Rugby semi-finals on points difference.
It was eventual-winners Saracens that progressed ahead of the Chiefs in a nail-biting climax to the 2014/15 season, but Baxter is adamant his side will not be getting ahead of themselves this term.
Exeter start their Aviva Premiership Rugby campaign at beaten finalists Bath Rugby next Saturday, and the 44-year-old is instead looking for more consistency from the Chiefs.
Eight defeats proved one too many for Exeter last year, but Baxter is hoping they can put themselves in a similar position come next May.
“You have to try and be realistic,” he said. “You have to try and extend the players, the squad and the coaching staff, but the truth is we feel we’re doing very well to be in and around the top six.
“For us to realistically sit here and talk about being a top-four side, we need to have a couple of consistent top-six finishes, getting into big semi-finals and finals.
“I’ve seen some huge development happen to us as a team and also as individuals with our involvement in various tournaments. We want more of those exciting games.
“The Premiership is very competitive at the moment, so if you’re a top-six side then you’re not going to be far off being a top-four side. That’s obviously where we want to be this year.”
LV= Cup success in 2013/14 paved the way for the likes of Henry Slade, Jack Nowell, and Luke Cowan-Dickie to show the young-guns can flourish at Exeter.
And Baxter expects more of the same this year, with young players likely to get their chance at Sandy Park alongside new international signings Geoff Parling and Michele Campagnaro later on in the season.
He added: “You don’t want to have to throw the youngsters into the first team in a big block of matches.
“They’d cope fine if they had to, and we’ll have to use that extended squad this season, but we’ll use them in ones and twos.
“I’ve been really pleased with Geoff through the World Cup. It’s not been the greatest for England, but personally I think he’s had a good tournament.
“He’s aware that we want lots from him. He’s going to have to work extremely hard and we want big numbers. He’s going to have to get stuck in, but he’ll enjoy that.
“He’s not really had many pre-season games like the others have, but he’s chomping at the bit and it’s going to be fantastic to see him training, and potentially getting our other internationals back from Tonga and Namibia as well.”
The 2015-16 Aviva Premiership Rugby Season kicks off on 16 October. To see all of the fixtures click here.