Chiefs' fight for survival can win place in history, declares Baxter

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The Independent Online

Exeter head coach Rob Baxter has urged his players to write their names into West Country folklore by surviving their first season in the Premiership.

The newcomers to the top flight of English rugby union have been widely tipped to endure an immediate return to the Championship.

A clearer idea of their ability to compete will emerge after today's match with Gloucester at Sandy Park and Baxter is urging his Chiefs to seize the moment.

"One thing I have always done since I have been head coach is never run away from the obvious," Baxter said yesterday. "And the obvious is that tomorrow is a very big occasion and we are very much aware of that.

"It's a history-making time for the club and we are challenging the players to be the people who make that history. They made history last season by getting us into the Premiership and now they are the guys who are going to write the history of our first season in the Premiership.

"We are going to go for it and prepare every week as well as we can, giving it our all and seeing what happens," he pledged.

"This season is going to be all about giving it a real go, enjoying the experience and maximising every minute."

The Gloucester captain, Mike Tindall, is determined for Gloucester to avoid an opening day ambush by the Premiership rookies.

Gloucester won just twice on the road last season and Tindall believes that Exeter represent a trip into the unknown.

"It's a very hard time to play them as we don't really know what we're going to get," said the England centre.

"This is one time when homework can be a little bit deceiving. Warm-up games never truly reflect what happens in Premiership games.

"You might identify patterns from pre-season games but that isn't necessarily what they'll do in the Premiership.

"We've got to go down there expecting everything and, for our part, bring some variety to our game so we can surprise them with something different," Tindall added.

A crowd of 75,000 is expected to watch the traditional London double-header at Twickenham, which is kicked off this year by London Irish's match against Saracens.

The Vicarage Road club, who have selected Alex Goode at fly-half, were rarely out of the headlines last season – for both the right and wrong reasons.

And last season's beaten Premiership finalists are eager to launch a campaign that brings with it high expectations. "Everyone in the squad is excited about the start of the new season," said the Saracens director of rugby, Brendan Venter.

"We've had a good pre-season and now we can't wait for the action to begin. We face London Irish and I'm sure they will be challenging for honours," Venter added.

Wasps, who feature Andy Powell at No 8 and Riki Flutey at fly-half, face Harlequins and their director of rugby, Tony Hanks, is eager for hostilities to commence.

"There's a real sense of excitement going into this game," he said.

"We are ready to play and eager to get the competition under way."