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Baxter gives update on Nowell and other Exeter walking wounded

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Rob Baxter has been handed a fitness boost as the Exeter injury concerns coming out of last Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership semi-final win over Bath – including Jack Nowell – have all cleared up ahead of this Saturday’s Champions Cup final versus Racing 92 in Bristol. 

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England winger Nowell, 27, wasn’t included in the league selection due to a foot injury sustained in the European semi-final against Toulouse, his place going to Olly Woodburn, and Exeter went on to pick up some further injury concerns as a number of players limped out of the 35-6 five-try win. 

Those concerns have now cleared, though, leaving Baxter with all his options available as the Chiefs prepare to take on Racing at Ashton Gate.   

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Racing’s Simon Zebo sets the scene ahead of the Champions Cup final

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Racing’s Simon Zebo sets the scene ahead of the Champions Cup final

“Every player who hobbled (off),  a lot of them were cramp, a lot of them were little things like a bit of a sore ankle or a bit of soreness,” explained Baxter on Wednesday. “We were fortunate in that last ten minutes, a quarter of an hour, we got comfortable enough on the scoreboard to be able to not risk people staying on with cramp or not risk people with slightly tweaked ankles. 

“Jonny Gray, Henry Slade, they are in full training today. Joe Simmonds is training fully. Who else came off? Olly? Training fully, so we’re selecting from a full-strength side. Jack Nowell trained yesterday (Tuesday) so again he is in contention.

“We take a long time on selection and we look at all of those things. You look at Jack, how he played before he picked up that foot injury late on against Toulouse, how he played against Northampton when he scored a fantastic try in that game, how he has played in other big games for us.

“I don’t think I have seen a winger play a better game in the Premiership final than Jack Nowell played last season,” continued the Exeter boss. “So you look at that and you know what he’s capable of doing.

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“But at the same time, we have to watch him train and assess it carefully to make sure he’s at the level to be able to perform like that. At the same time, we have to be able to take into account the performances of Tom O’Flaherty, who has been very consistent over an extended period of time, and Olly Woodburn, who came back and had a great game in the semi-final after a little period out with an injury. 

“We have got to take all those things into account. There isn’t any one thing that trumps the others and when we assess all those things we just have to come up with the honest and best decision.”

Exeter to Bristol is only a 90-mile spin but Baxter confirmed his Chiefs will travel up on the Friday and overnight rather than risk traffic delays on game day. “We’re staying the night before as we always would,” he confirmed. “We have got used to it over a number of years that we always stay (overnight, even with Bath and Bristol. 

“The reality is there is no way of predicting what M5 traffic will be like at any given time whether it’s a Friday or a Saturday or whenever or fixtures are. The only way we can confirm good timings is to stay overnight.”    

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Shaylen 1 hours ago
Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink

If France, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland got together and all changed their eligibility laws in the same way SA has it would be absolutely bonkers. All players from all nations involved in Europe would be fair game as would their coaches. The investment in rugby would be supercharged as teams would rush to create dream teams. Transfer markets would be super charged, salary caps may change, private investment would grow as rich backers first buy clubs and then put money into their clubs in an effort to land the best players. The richest clubs and franchises would benefit most but money and players would move across borders at a steady flow. Suddenly countries like Wales and Scotland would have a much larger pool of players to select from who would be developed and improved in systems belonging to their rivals within superstar squads while their clubs receive large sums in the transfer market. The Six Nations would experience a big boost as the best players become available all the time. The Champions cup would become even more fiercely contested as the dream teams clash. Fan engagement would grow as fans would follow their favourite players creating interest in the game across the continent. Transfer markets and windows would become interesting events in themselves, speculation would drive it and rumours of big transfers and interest in players would spread. All of this is speculation and much of it would not eventuate straight away but just like in football the spread of players and talent would create these conditions over time. The transfer markets in European football is proof of this. Football had the same club vs country debate eons ago and favoured an open system. This has made it the largest game in the world with global interest and big money. Rugby needs to embrace this approach in the long run as well

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Jon 7 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

This is a bit dramatic for me, I think the Rebels and Force cultures would be very strong, and if a player is chosen from either, you can be confident they are in a good head space and ready. Whether they quite have the technical or tactical foundations of the other two states is where one would way their risk of selection. I see no need for Schmidt to worry about that risk in this squad. The main reason I could see a predominance of players from Brumbies and Reds, is simple cohesion. What might the coaching group make of what’s lacking in the Tahs, and to a lesser extent Rebels and Force’s, franchise? Certainly sides (players) that are running irish plays like we saw from that lovely McDermott long ball with have a head start. I hope the players can continue it at International level. Really liked what I saw of Wright (don’t know player focus and just hadn’t seen a lot of him anyway) in that game, can see him being a glue in a Wallaby side too. A with the similar worry of selecting players like Ryan, I think it unfounded to worry so much about forward balance at the moment. Including both Wright and Skelton in the same lineout is not going to lose you games gainst Wales. Nor will any unknown weakenss Wales might find in Ryan be exploited to any great extent. It is the perfect time to introduce such a young player. What other shortcuts might Schmidt want to make now, just a year out from hosting BIL? When Gamble came on the scene I thought he had a Pocock ability to break game apart along with performing the role of a openside well. I would be very keen to drop Leota/Hooper for Gamble, and in your squad make up, include Uru as a lock. Did you forget to remove Vunivalu from your team? Would you have Meafou in your squad if you could?

114 Go to comments
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FEATURE Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt
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