Exeter Chiefs: Club can keep identity if stars leave, says boss Rob Baxter

Exeter Chiefs: Club can keep identity if stars leave, says boss Rob Baxter

Two of Exeter’s homegrown British and Irish Lions players Jack Nowell and Luke Cowan-Dickie have been linked with moves abroad

Exeter boss Rob Baxter says he does not think his side’s identity would be lost should more of his top homegrown stars leave the club in the summer.

Reports have also linked England and British Lions hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie to a move to Montpellier while fellow academy graduates Jack Nowell and Dave Ewers will also be out of contract.

“I don’t have a fear about the identity being lost,” Baxter said.

“At the end of the day people think that our identity for a period around that was about that core group, but it wasn’t about that core group being from Devon or Cornwall.

“It was great that they were from our academy and it was great that they were local, but actually it was the people they were that made it work, and that’s what we have to do, we have to become those kind of people with that kind of squad.

“It’s more about what are we in our DNA as players and as a club than it is the fact that you’re local.”

On Cowan-Dickie’s future Baxter said: “What’s left to be done is a definitive answer. It isn’t my place to say now which way it’s going one way or the other.”

With regards to Ewers and Nowell, Baxter would only say: “I don’t believe they’ve signed for anyone else, but they haven’t signed for us.”

‘Things will change’

Sam Simmonds
Sam Simmonds will join Montpellier two years after setting the Premiership’s single-season try-scoring record

Last season Exeter saw England and British Lions second row Jonny Hill, homegrown Scotland lock Sam Skinner, winger Tom O’Flaherty and back row Will Witty all leave for more lucrative deals elsewhere that the Chiefs could not match.

Nowell, Simmonds, Cowan-Dickie, Henry Slade and Jack Maunder have all come through Exeter’s youth system and gone on to win England honours and help the side win two domestic and one European title.

With a reduced salary cap of £5m and just one marquee player exemption, Premiership teams are finding it hard to keep top players. A richer league in France can be a big lure for internationals who are in their late twenties early thirties after next autumn’s World Cup.

And despite Worcester and Wasps being forced out of the Premiership due to financial issues and Exeter having to sell their stake in the hotel they built to balance their books after the Covid-19 pandemic, Baxter says the future of England’s top division will be better in years to come.

“Things will change as the financial environment changes, it always has before, I think we’ve got to be careful of not getting caught in this real negative spiral that we’re all getting in at the minute,” he said.

“Next year’s the last year of the £5m cap, after that I would think the following year there’ll be an awful lot of clubs, I know we’ll be the same, we will spend what we can afford to spend.

“Whether that’s the full cap and all the credits and the one marquee player, or whether it’s less than that, that’s what we’ll do.

“But we’ve always worked like that anyway, and if the financial situation changes down the line I’d imagine the cap might go up.

“The cap had been quite progressive over the last five or six years, until Covid struck, so it was a progressive system that was going up and it was advancing, so there’s nothing in history that says that wouldn’t happen again once we’ve become more financially stable.”

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