‘I hold my hand up,’ says Exeter Chiefs boss Rob Baxter after missing play-offs

'I hold my hand up,' says Exeter Chiefs boss Rob Baxter after missing play-offs

Rob Baxter’s Exeter side last finished outside of the top two in the Premiership in 2015

Exeter boss Rob Baxter says his decisions in the early part of the season played a role in his side missing the Premiership play-offs.

The Chiefs – who have finished in the top two every season since 2016 – can finish no higher than fifth.

Exeter have won 12 of their 23 games so far and were victorious in just half of their opening eight games as injuries and international call-ups hit.

“I hold my hand up, a fair bit of that is down to me,” Baxter told BBC Devon.

“I think initially I could have guided us as a coaching team and maybe as a coaching group and a playing group, maybe a little bit differently in the early part of the season.

“We perhaps could have been a bit more positive just on what was happening within that playing group and what our targets were game by game, half by half of games.”

International stars such as Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jonny Hill and Jack Nowell have played few games this season due to call-ups and injuries, while back-ups such as Jacques Vermeulen and Will Witty have also been ruled out.

It led to players such as Josh Hodge, Christ Tshiunza and Jack Innard being relied on to fill the gaps.

“Our huge focus was on a collection of points that we could build on over the course of the season, when actually, with that playing group, for loads of them they were having the time of their lives because they were getting their first Premiership games, they were getting Premiership experience, they were playing in front of big crowds,” Baxter added.

“All the kind of things that a lot of those guys hadn’t had, those were those big experiences and we probably didn’t focus on that enough, because those are their big times, the winning and losing wasn’t the most important thing for them.

“If you’re someone making your debut, it’s incredible that you make your debut and that’s a start point in your career that you want to push on from, we’ve probably had that scenario quite a lot.

“When you’ve got a chunk of your team where they’ve had their best season because they’ve got into the team and they’re playing and they’re pressing in their careers, but you finish worse in the league than you have done for six years, it feels quite contradictory, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the truth because for these guys it has.”

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