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Exeter boss Rob Baxter preparing for play-offs as if Sale-Worcester won't happen

Exeter boss Rob Baxter (Getty)

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Rob Baxter says that Exeter will prepare for the Gallagher Premiership play-offs as if Wednesday’s rescheduled game between Sale and Worcester “won’t happen”.


Exeter and Wasps, who beat an inexperienced Chiefs line-up 46-5 on Sunday, are through to next weekend’s Premiership play-offs with home ties.

But neither Baxter nor his Wasps opposite number Lee Blackett know the identity of their teams’ opponents yet.

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The Offload: COMING SOON
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The Offload: COMING SOON

Premiership Rugby postponed the clash between Sale and Worcester on Saturday after 16 Sharks players tested positive for coronavirus.

If that game takes place – it is subject to stringent retesting – and Sale win with a bonus point, then they will travel to Wasps.

If they win without a bonus, Exeter await them at Sandy Park, but should Sale lose to Worcester, then Bath will head to Devon and Sharks are out of play-off contention.

Baxter said: “We don’t even know if the game on Wednesday is going to happen, do we?


“We will probably prepare for the table as it stands now, but I don’t think we are seeing any guarantees that the game is definitely happening.

“And if the game doesn’t happen, we don’t know what regulations are going to be used. We are all a bit in the dark about it.

“We will prepare as if the game won’t happen, and we will build our contingency plan around whatever the result of that game will be.”


Asked if he was surprised the Sale fixture was postponed and not cancelled, with Worcester awarded a 20-0 win, Baxter added: “This is the hardest thing. I don’t know what happened.

“There is so much confidentiality around medical things that I don’t know which players failed Covid tests or the testing procedure.

“Until we know, or the people know, what has happened, saying whether it should or should not have been postponed is an impossible question to answer.

“On the whole, we are pretty good at focusing on ourselves, and nothing is going to dramatically change how we play.

“It’s just about making sure the players are comfortable by making sure they have seen enough of what is coming.

“If it’s Sale, we played them twice in the Champions Cup (this season) and we played them relatively recently in the Premiership. That doesn’t feel like a big deal.

“Bristol we also played relatively recently, so there are quite a lot of things we can go back to if we need to as well.”

Blackett, meanwhile, said: “One of our big things we spoke about in the lockdown period was being adaptable, because you don’t know what is coming around the corner.

“We spoke about that early on, and we are going to have to be adaptable again.

“We will try and use it as a positive because sometimes when you get to this end, people spend too much time focusing on the opposition rather than yourselves.”

Wasps had five points in the bag after just 44 minutes against Exeter, with fly-half Jacob Umaga, skipper Dan Robson, centre Jimmy Gopperth and wing Josh Bassett scoring tries, then substitute scrum-half Ben Vellacott collected a second-half double.

Gopperth finished with 19 points after also kicking four conversions and two penalties, with Rob Miller converting Vellacott’s second try and prop Danny Southworth touching down for Exeter.

Baxter, whose team secured a play-off place last month, rested international stars like Stuart Hogg, Henry Slade, Jack Nowell and Jonny Gray, fielding a largely youthful and untested line-up.

Wasps have won eight of nine league games since the Premiership restarted in August, and Blackett added: “It feels like a bit of a dream at times because of just how well it has gone.

“To get the results on the field backing up all the hard work, we are proud where we are, but there is still a big job to be done.”


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