The annual Esportif Intelligence report comparing the rugby player salaries by position across the three European leagues – the Gallagher Premiership, Top 14 and Guinness PRO14 – has in recent years become a major talking point when it is issued at this time every year, but double-winning Exeter boss Rob Baxter isn’t losing any sleep over its latest contents.   

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Esportif’s salary report for 2020/21 claims that No10 is the best-paid player by position in this season’s Premiership, openside the worst. In between, you have lock as second-best paid, outside centre as third best and next comes full-back and tighthead.

The list between sixth and twelfth is then respectively filled by No8, blindside, wing, loosehead, scrum-half, inside centre and hooker. Exeter boss Baxter, though, doesn’t see a crossover between this list of best and worst-paid positions and the way salaries are spread around his squad, a team who are reigning Premiership and European champions after wins in last October’s finals.  

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Ex-England hooker Brian Moore in conversation with Jim Hamilton

Ahead of the Exeter trip on Saturday to Wasps, the opposition they defeated in the Premiership final at Twickenham ten weeks ago, Baxter said about the Esportif Intelligence salary report: “That report comes out every year and it’s driven by one management company and so everyone needs to be a little careful. 

“I’m not saying take it with a pinch of salt but that is how they report on their clients. That won’t necessarily be the same across every client at every other club, and also especially if you have had players at clubs for long periods because how their salaries grow over a period of time is different to where you are going out to target say a marquee player.

“If that management company have a particularly high percentage of marquee type players it’s going to be quite skewed compared to how another agent might have their client base based around the importance of players. It’s not going to come as any surprise to you.

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“You want a big, tough pack of forwards who can scrummage and catch lineouts and you want a set of backs that can defence first and you can go from there. If you do that you can win a few games and you build on that and if you can build on that you can build some success. We keep our basic level of recruitment very simple and then we try and build on that. 

“We don’t go out there looking for finished articles everywhere we can because it is impossible to do with the salary cap and it’s unrealistic. With a good squad and a good group of people, you can cover your odd weakness as long as that weakness is not a weakness in one of your fundamentals if you see what I mean. We’ll go for the fundamentals first and we’ll work from there. That always seems to have given us a very solid foundation.”  

Baxter added that his job at Exeter now feels different after becoming a double-winning coach less than three months ago. “It does feel different and I’m very happy to talk about this… It’s not like that it’s now, I don’t want to go back to work because it almost feels better to come into work now. 

“But it does feel different because you feel kind of justified you got the job in the first place because you actually have done the ultimate, you go ‘there is not much more I could have done. You gave the right guy the job and we got there’, so it does feel different.

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“What I really feel is important now is I have got a focus on where the squad can go over the next few years because we have got some huge challenges that way. The salary cap changes after this season, down to £5million, and there are some challenges there for three years. 

“That means there has to be a real focus on the quality of your academy, the quality of the recruit into your academy, how they are coached, how we create a pathway for those guys to come through, how you change the focus of your squad slightly if you have to, where you replace players, how you keep some depth around your international period – there are some real challenges there.

“They are things that have always hugely motivated me and been of huge interest to me and those things are now even more important than they have ever been. There is still a lot of exciting work to be done here definitely.”

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