Exeter Chiefs want to resume their Gallagher Premiership campaign “with a bang”, according to director of rugby Rob Baxter. The domestic season has been suspended since March but will restart on Friday with matches played in empty stadiums and the remaining nine rounds of fixtures taking place over six weeks.

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Exeter hold a five-point lead at the top of the Premiership table and face away games with title rivals Sale and Bristol in the space of five days following Saturday’s home game with Leicester Tigers at Sandy Park. “We always plan on starting with a bang, we don’t plan on really warming up through games,” Baxter said.

“We were going well before the break so the reality for us is to make sure we have at least held the form and, with the players available and the physical condition they look in, there is no reason for us not to have some expectation to play at least the level we were, if not better.

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“We were ticking along quite well and the season had some flow, and what we have got to do now is start that process of getting back in the flow of playing well and as far as I’m concerned that is about embracing the obstacles that are in front of us.

“It will be different with no crowd and water breaks and all the various restrictions when you turn up at the ground so what do you do? Do you choose to embrace it or choose to use it as an excuse not to perform well? Starting on this weekend against Leicester you’ve got 10 weekends worth of rugby plus those midweek games.

“In ten weeks’ time, you can sit here and have a big say in what your future will be. For us, that can be a two-cup 10 weeks, or one cup or zero cups. Those things should be hugely exciting. How many times do you get the opportunity to say that as a group of players?

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“In ten weeks’ time think about where we could be and what we could be celebrating. You can decide to really relish that and enjoy the challenges or you can decide to find all the problems that are there. There is no problem that’s insurmountable so let’s embrace them and enjoy it.”

Baxter is also taking that positive attitude when it comes to the risk of Exeter players testing positive for Covid-19 once Premiership games have been played, as happened in rugby league at the weekend.

Hull FC and Salford have had their next fixtures postponed after five Hull players involved in the match between the sides at Headingley tested positive. “I’ve got very little concern about cross-contamination between teams,” Baxter added.

“You’ve got to look at the actual percentage of it in the population at the moment; Premiership clubs have been tested twice this week already; we’re all pretty much training and existing in kind of our own bubbles, all the protocols about how we travel to grounds are very strict.

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“We’re doing everything we can to make sure that people who are going to be in contact on the rugby field don’t have it and I don’t think there is much more we can do.

“And although there has been the odd case in this testing period, there hasn’t been any outbreaks beyond one or two people and that should give us all a lot of confidence.”

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