Exeter Chiefs boss Rob Baxter predicts more shock results in Premiership

Exeter Chiefs boss Rob Baxter predicts more shock results in Premiership

Exeter Chiefs director of rugby Steve Baxter says struggling clubs play with more “ambition and desire” now the threat of relegation is removed

Exeter Chiefs director of Rugby Rob Baxter believes the Premiership is much more “competitive” without the threat of relegation.

Relegation to the Championship will not return until 2024-25 at the earliest as the top flight bids to rebalance after the demise of Worcester and Wasps.

And in the last round of games, the top three Saracens, Sale and Harlequins all lost to sides at the bottom.

“Now you’re never in a scenario where a team aren’t coming after you,” he said.

“Some teams in the relegation zone would [previously] rest players when they came up against a side they didn’t think they would beat, because the next game was against a relegation rival.

“That doesn’t happen any more because there’s no need to.”

The Premiership was left with 11 clubs for the remainder of this season following the financial collapse of Worcester and Wasps, which saw both Midlands-based clubs suspended and then relegated from the top division.

And Baxter believes without the threat of further relegation from the Premiership, struggling teams have been given a boost of confidence on the pitch.

“Competitive results are going to happen more and more often,” he said.

“A perfect example is when we’ve been to Newcastle when they’ve been in the bottom two.

“It’s very hard to play with the ambition and desire that they play with now because there’s so much hanging on the result.”

While leaders Saracens, second-placed Sale and Harlequins in third lost to London Irish, Newcastle and Bristol respectively, over Christmas, Baxter’s sixth-placed Chiefs narrowly avoided coming unstuck against Bath on Christmas Eve, eventually grinding out a 20-15 win.

That result left Bath bottom of the table, but with every side in the league having won at least three of their 10 games this season.

“We’ve won some pretty tight games against teams that have been in the bottom two because the game means so much that as it gets to that pressure 10 minutes at the end, they start to make more mistakes than you do,” added Baxter.

“That’s actually changed a bit and what you’re seeing is that teams at the bottom of the league can get on with it.

“They’re not looking over their shoulder [anymore], they’re looking upwards all the time.”

Exeter are back in action against top-of-the-table Saracens on New Year’s Eve.

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