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Premiership Rugby

Baxter aims for early Christmas present

Baxter aims for early Christmas present

Rob Baxter is hoping his Exeter Chiefs squad can deliver an early Christmas present to the club’s supporters by defeating Newcastle Falcons in Saturday’s Amlin Challenge Cup encounter at Sandy Park.

With the Aviva Premiership Rugby set for a two-week break, Baxter's troops will face league rivals Newcastle on successive weekends as they look to press on in European battle.

Having lost their opening fixture in the competition to Montpellier, the Chiefs hit back a week later by sinking fellow French outfit Bourgoin at the Stade Pierre Rajon.

The two French clubs faced each other themselves on Thursday evening and it was Montpellier, who head Pool 3, that maintained their 100 per cent record with a 34-19 home win.

Montpellier's latest success means that it is imperative that the Chiefs maintain their pursuit with a big display against the Falcons.

Looking ahead to the game, Baxter said: "It's a game we are really looking forward to. We have picked a slightly freshened up squad this week, all of whom have trained fantastically well this week. They are aware we have some big games coming up over the next month or so, but if I was a player playing here right now, I would want to be part of that."

Still smarting from last weekend's Premiership defeat at London Wasps, Baxter is confident his players can hit back at the first opportunity against a Falcons side, who they defeated 22-17 at Sandy Park back in September.

"We will be very competitive," added Baxter, who retains only three of the side that started at Adams Park a week ago.

"With the team we have selected, I'd be pretty disappointed if we lose the game this weekend. The boys are playing at home and we are very aware we have to play in a way that gets our supporters behind us. So far this season we've managed to do that and I fully expect it again this weekend. As I said, I would be disappointed if we don't play with energy and really force ourselves on the game."

In what is the club's last home game of 2010, Baxter is also keen his side wrap up a memorable year on a real high note.

"It's our last home game before Christmas so it will be a nice occasion to get plenty of supporters here and give them a bit of a Christmas present," he said. "Obviously Newcastle are coming down hoping to spoil that party a bit. But that's what rugby's about.

"For ourselves, we want to concentrate on our own game and bring a mass of energy and enthusiasm to what will hopefully be a really good game of rugby.

"If we can give something back to the fans for their support this year then we will be happy with our performance. At the same time, though, there is a little bit less pressure on the Amlin games, so hopefully that will free us up to play some nice fluid rugby and put on a really entertaining game."

As has been the case for many of the club's Cup fixtures this season, Baxter has used the opportunity to rest some of his more key personnel, whilst at the same time offer the chance for others to stake their claim for a more regular first team role.

This weekend is no different and the coach is keen for those selected to step forward and be counted.

"It's definitely an opportunity to pick other players, but they still have to earn their places – they're very aware of that," he said. "It's good to be able to put out a mixture of guys who have played a fair bit of rugby already this season and some guys who need a bit more.

"I look forward to the competition immensely. I said at the start of the season we're going to enjoy every challenge that came up. And any coach will tell you, having the opportunity to look at different players you've been working with is great."


15 Josh Matavesi
14 Matt Jess
13 Nic Sestaret
12 Sereli Naqelevuki
11 Mark Foster
10 Ryan Davis
9 Junior Poluleuligaga
1 Ben Moon
2 Chris Whitehead
3 Hoani Tui
4 Chris Bentley
5 Dave Gannon
6 Chad Slade
7 Andy Miller
8 Dave Ewers

16 Jon Vickers
17 Ruaidhri Murphy
18 Ignacio Elosu
19 James Hanks
20 Michael Stupple
21 Garrick Cowley
22 Phil Dollman
23 Andrew Higgins

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