'The players leaving don't owe the club anything'
Exeter forwards coach Rob Hunter underlined the importance of home advantage after the Chiefs secured a Heineken Champions Cup last-16 tie in Devon.
Exeter’s 40-3 victory over Castres guaranteed Exeter a top-four finish in Pool A after they collected a crucial bonus-point.
They were helped by Castres’ woeful indiscipline that saw number eight Feibyan Tukino sent off for a dangerous tackle just before half-time, while flankers Baptiste Delaporte and Mathieu Babillot were both yellow-carded, along with prop Aurelien Azar.
It meant that the visitors were briefly reduced to 12 players, yet Exeter did not secure a five-point maximum until seven minutes from time through a second penalty try.
“It wasn’t straightforward. It has been a season of highs and lows so far,” Hunter said.
“It was a very erratic first half from both sides but I am very pleased with the way we stuck at it, shook ourselves off and finished with a flourish.
“It is really important to get that home draw. History would say that being at home in this competition is an important thing.
“From here on in you have just got to win the next game. Whoever we get will be pretty tough. We are passionate about Europe – it is such an amazing competition.
“We love Europe and we want to stay in it for as long as we can.”
England internationals Henry Slade, Sam Simmonds and Jack Nowell also touched down, as did Wales forward Christ Tshiunza, in addition to a first-half penalty try, with Slade kicking two conversions and Joe Simmonds one.
Castres were restricted to an early Ben Botica penalty, and while it was a game that will not live long in the memory, 2020 European champions Exeter will feel relieved to have got the job done.
Hunter added: “Christ and Dafydd will continue to learn, so them going away with the Wales boys, they will learn a lot.
“Dafydd’s game understanding for a young guy is second to none, as is Christ’s athleticism. Christ running tries in is something I would like to see for the next 10 years.
“The players leaving don’t owe the club anything. They’ve had some tremendous successes here. We wish them the very best.
“It will be a very emotional farewell. They are a very tight-knit group, guys we have seen grow up together.
“It will be great for them to experience a different culture, a different country, a different team.”