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The Exeter reaction to last week's bristling Stuart Hogg interview

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

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Exeter boss Rob Baxter has hailed the winter contribution of Stuart Hogg to the Chiefs, explaining that the Scotland captain’s desire to remain at the club and his form in last Saturday’s win over Bristol was exemplary leadership by someone who couldn’t make the starting team for the business end of last season’s Gallagher Premiership title chase.

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Hogg was dropped to the bench for the semi-final and final matches last June versus Sale and Harlequins and it sparked the suggestion that the Scottish full-back might opt to leave the club next summer and continue his career elsewhere amid a reduced salary cap climate where Exeter recently confirmed the end of season departures of second row internationals Jonny Hill and Sam Skinner. 

However, the 29-year-old came out forcibly last week to nip that ‘quit’ speculation in the bud. Rather than have an axe to grind over last June’s demotion, Hogg insisted he had already committed to staying at Exeter for the foreseeable future, telling local BBC radio: “I was lucky enough to re-sign last year during Covid times and the only thing that wasn’t disclosed was the time we were staying for. I was getting a bit hacked off reading all that kind of stuff and the rumours going around about where I was going.”

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Having joined from Glasgow in 2019, it means Hogg will be at Exeter for some time yet and how the Scotsman spoke last week about his relationship with the Chiefs and then followed it up with a try-scoring performance versus Bristol greatly pleased Baxter. 

Speaking ahead of this weekend’s trip to title-holders Harlequins, who defeated Exeter in the final where Hogg only featured off the bench, Baxter said his player’s comments last week were “very important”. 

“People need to sometimes backtrack a little bit. The challenge for a player isn’t necessarily when things are going well and the right way. At the end of last season, I took the decision to leave Stuart out and put him on the bench for big games. For a guy of his standing and being an international captain, that would have been tough to take and I know it was tough, we had discussions about it but he has come back this season and played exceptionally well. 

“He has been one of our most high-level consistent performers and that says so much about him and the way he wants to play and what he wants to achieve here at Exeter, I can’t speak highly enough of people who respond like that. 

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“You want responses and you hope the guys take things in the right way and from what I have seen from Stuart he has come back and has got on with things exceptionally well. He looks very, very motivated, has very emotionally bought into what we are trying to achieve and that is all I can ask of any player.”

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