Rob Baxter refusing to rely on return of Exeter ‘cavalry’

The depleted Chiefs have begun the new season with successive defeats in the absence of their Lions contingent.

Rob Baxter’s Exeter have begun the new Gallagher Premiership season with successive losses (Ashley Western/PA)
Rob Baxter’s Exeter have begun the new Gallagher Premiership season with successive losses (Ashley Western/PA)

Exeter boss Rob Baxter insists he is not despondent or “waiting for the cavalry” to return following his side’s winless start to the Gallagher Premiership campaign as he prepares to welcome back Stuart Hogg.

The depleted Chiefs have begun the new term with successive defeats after surrendering the title last season following a shock Twickenham final defeat to Harlequins.

Scotland captain Hogg is in contention for selection for the first time since his summer involvement with the British and Irish Lions going into Sunday’s game at Sale.

British and Irish Lion Stuart Hogg is poised for his Exeter return (Steve Haag/PA)

But England trio Luke Cowan-Dickie Sam Simmonds and Jonny Hill – who also toured South Africa with Warren Gatland’s side – will not be considered for action for at least a further week due to their agreed rest periods.

Director of rugby Baxter, who additionally has had a series of injury issues to contend with, said: “We’ve got a few more players available this week and then we’ve picked up a couple of injuries as well. That’s how a season goes on.

“I’m not someone who looks around the corner waiting for the cavalry, we’ve got to get on with it.

“The sparks of wins are there – I’m not despondent and wondering what to do.

“But, at the same time, I’m also not going to be complacent enough to think a change of players will change things.

Sometimes you've just got to take it on the chin and keep moving forward.

Rob Baxter

“You’ve got to work to improve all the time and whether it’s two games down (lost) or two games won, that scenario doesn’t change.

“Sometimes you’ve just got to take it on the chin and keep moving forward.”

Exeter were beaten 34-19 at Leicester on the opening weekend, before suffering a narrow 26-24 loss at home to Northampton last weekend.

Scotland internationals Jonny Gray and Sam Skinner, backrow talisman Dave Ewers, South African powerhouse Jacques Vermeulen and England back Jack Nowell have each been absent due to time in the treatment room.

Baxter did not expand on the current injury status of individuals but confirmed Hogg is ready to feature at AJ Bell Stadium.

Exeter lost at home to Northampton last weekend (David Davies/PA)

The influential 29-year-old started the opening two Lions tests against the Springboks before the disappointment of being dropped for the series decider, with his club coach urging players not to dwell on the past.

“He looks very motivated, he’s looked really, really sharp in training this week,” Baxter said of Hogg.

“The biggest thing we’ve got to stop doing as a club is looking back, because whatever has been behind us is exactly that, it’s behind us.

“I think it’s going to be exactly the same challenge for the Lions guys, whether it went well or badly; it’s the same for us looking back as a club on a ridiculous 12-month period where we went from winning the double to getting straight into another final – we’ve got to stop looking back and look forward.

“That’s very much my attitude with Stuart. We had our discussions post-Lions, they were a while ago, we don’t need to have them again.

“All that Stuart needs to know from me is we’re keen to get him on the rugby field, we’ve got a lot of faith in his ability to get over whatever little blips or whatever anybody thought about the end of last season and get on and show what a good player he is.”

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