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

“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.

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“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.

“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. 

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“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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