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Baxter does Premiership fixtures U-turn, issues update on Simmonds injury

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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Exeter boss Rob Baxter has admitted he has no hang-ups about the Gallagher Premiership deciding not to bring forward fixtures to ensure there was action over the coming two weekends in England.

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Last Saturday’s high octane Exeter vs Bristol clash at Sandy Park was followed by a call by Baxter and opposite number Pat Lam for Premiership officials to bring forward two rounds of fixtures from later in the season to fill the void left by the suspension of the final two pool rounds of fixtures in Europe.   

The reasoning was to avoid a potential fixtures backlog later in the 2020/21 Premiership campaign that would force clubs into playing midweek games. 

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JP Doyle on last week’s bizarre red card in France for a player lifting a referee in celebration

However, the clarification since then from Europe that they will look to change their format rather than seek extra weekends to play the suspended pool games has left Baxter making a U-turn on his initial call and instead voice his support for the two-week layoff in England.    

“Probably what myself and Pat were both looking at was that we both wanted to play Europe and we were probably concerned that if Premiership games weren’t moved and in theory creating some space, there was a risk of the Heineken Cup games having to be squeezed in or pressure of midweek fixtures being put in place like we had at the tail end of last season (in the Premiership),” he explained. 

“Now that the picture seems to be clearing a bit there doesn’t seem to be any drive to compress fixtures, that the weekends that are available are the weekends that are available for the Heineken Cup. They are four weeks (still) available and they will format it around that. 

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“That changes things a little bit and obviously eases those frustrations of trying to create space. So for me, that was what it was, how are we going to create space without doubling up games in a week? It seems that nobody is (now) expecting that to happen.

“It means that in the reality of where the country is at the moment – everyone can read the headlines around where the country is at the moment – this (Premiership break) probably now looks like a supportive measure to what is going on in the rest of the country. It feels now, in hindsight, without that need or that worry about doubling up fixtures, it’s less of an issue to me now.”

Exeter had been scheduled to play Toulouse and Glasgow in the coming weekends in Europe but they will now pick up the thread in the Premiership when they travel to Worcester on January 30, a trip that might yet involve Joe Simmonds after Baxter reported that the injury he suffered in the defeat to Bristol wasn’t as bad as it appeared.   

“He has picked up a bit of an ankle ligament injury,” he said. “The prognosis is pretty good and with this break dropping in now as it has, he is not going to be far off by the time we resume. That is another positive of the situation we are in. We feel very lucky and Joe has been lucky not to pick up anything too serious there.”   

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Baxter does Premiership fixtures U-turn, issues update on Simmonds injury

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