Rob Baxter has wished his Scotland players Stuart Hogg and Sam Skinner well for their rearranged Guinness Six Nations match with France, a game which resulted in the kick-off time of the Exeter game at Gloucester being brought forward this Friday. He has also provided an update on the Henry Slade injury and the return of the Chiefs’ other internationals to the club this week. 

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With their round three match in Paris postponed on February 28, Scotland had been in lengthy discussions with Premiership Rugby and the Six Nations to ensure their contingent of English-based players were all released for this Friday’s rearranged Test fixture at Stade de France.

An agreement was slow in forthcoming and when it arrived it came with the kicker that the Scots could only pick five of their Premiership players due to the level of player release compensation that was paid to the league in England. 

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That left Scotland boss Gregor Townsend to carefully consider his options and in the end, he decided to choose Exeter pair Hogg and Skinner, Gloucester duo Chris Harris and Alex Craig and Harlequins’ Scott Steele. 

The decision will leave Hogg and Skinner only arriving back at Exeter for next weekend’s Champions Cup round of 16 game versus Lyon as opposed to joining everyone else in reporting back at Sandy Park earlier this week following last weekend’s Six Nations round five matches. 

Baxter won’t complain, though, and has wished the Scots well when they go into battle not long after full-time has blown in the Exeter match at Kingsholm. “I don’t get involved in these things,” said the Chiefs coach when asked about the politics that eventually led to a partial player release agreement between PRL, the SRU and the Six Nations.

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“These are things that occur between PRL and the CEOs and the owners and the national bodies. As far as I know, there has been an agreement made over the level of compensation for the clubs who lose players. Once that was agreed it was pretty straightforward and the guys [Hogg and Skinner] could stay. 

“Disappointed for Jonny Gray that he has come up with a bit of a sore shoulder. There doesn’t seem to be anything too serious but they didn’t want to risk him so he is on his way back here. We won’t involve him this weekend. He’ll hopefully have a good block of recovery time to get ready for the Lyon game.

“It is always frustrating to be without good players, of course it is, but we have dealt with it so far and for Stuart Hogg in particular it is massively important he is involved,” reasoned Exeter boss Baxter. “He is the Scotland captain, which is huge for him. Sam Skinner has not had massive involvement with Scotland so it is a good opportunity for him to play some more international rugby. 

“I can’t say on one hand we really want ambitious players here, we want players who can play at their absolute best and achieve their dreams, and then turn around and say we don’t like it when they play international rugby. You have to take it for what it is, it’s a great opportunity for them.

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“It’s a big opportunity for Scotland to help Wales win the Six Nations. It’s going to be a big game, one that is very interesting because France have still got a fair bit to do to win this Six Nations.”

One player back at Exeter is England midfielder Slade who suffered a training ground calf muscle injury that left him unavailable for his country’s round five defeat away to Ireland. “He seems okay,” enthused Baxter. “The scans showed up not too much so from what we are seeing, just a bit of TLC this week and he should be fine for the Lyon game.”

As regards England duo Luke Cowan-Dickie and Jonny Hill and Wales prop Tomas Francis, the Exeter coach added: “Luke has come back a bit bumped and bruised. We will have a good assessment of where he is before we make any calls on what he is going to do, but he is in and around the club and is looking sparky, is looking to get on with things as all the England lads are. 

“Jonny Hill the same. We look in a good place with our returning internationals. Tom Francis was in training Monday, getting on with things. It’s great to have them around now and we know we have got them around until the end of the season.”

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