Exeter expect to 'lay down a marker' at Saints despite lengthy list of absentees

Director of rugby Rob Baxter is backing Exeter Chiefs to handle 'a test of character' in the coming weeks.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

The Chiefs, like all Gallagher Premiership clubs, will have to do without a host of international players for key league matches this autumn.

Exeter are particularly short of senior players in the back five of the scrum for Friday's trip to Saints.

But Baxter told Devon Live: “We are not going into these rounds of games looking to cling on, we are going into them looking to lay down markers.

Rob BaxterRob Baxter
Rob Baxter

"We have been there plenty of times before and it is just a test of character of this group.

“The thing we got wrong during this period last season is we didn’t grow, and that is what we have got to do now.”

Exeter have seen Luke Cowan-Dickie, Sam Simmonds, Henry Slade and Jack Nowell called up by England.

Stuart Hogg and Jonny Gray are with Scotland, while Christ Tshiunza is with Wales and Santiago Grondona has been selected by Argentina.

Baxter has also reported several injury issues.

He said: “We have been struck down in the back five of the scrum again all in one go, with Jonny Gray going with Scotland and then picking up a couple of relatively bad back rower injuries, Sam Simmonds is away with England. So we are challenged in that area.

“It is good to have Jack Dunne back from injury now, Dafydd Jenkins is close to a return now. It is just one of those things and we got hit with a quadruple whammy all in one go around the back five of the scrum.”

Baxter added: “Richard Capstick is having a shoulder operation so that will be a good length of time out. Jannes Kirtsen, we are investigating a knee issue.”

“With Christ Tshiunza away with Wales, the young guys we thought might be playing are not and the senior guys we thought might be playing are not as well. It has all come at one go.”

Baxter has confirmed that scrum-half Stu Townsend and centre Ollie Devoto are both out until 2023.

He said: “Stu Townsend has had shoulder surgery now. It was a relatively serious injury so he is going to be out for a good three or four months.

“With Ollie Devoto it is going to be into the New Year, he is going okay (after hip surgery). It is nothing negative, it is just a long-term recovery from a serious operation and it is one you have got to get right. But he looks comfortable and he has been moving along the time scale as we expected.”

There will also be late fitness checks for a trio of backs who picked up ‘bumps and niggles’ in Exeter’s 38-22 defeat at Gloucester last weekend, with Olly Woodburn withdrawn early after suffering muscle tightness which meant he couldn't sprint.

Baxter said: “We picked up some bangs and some bruises to guys like Harvey Skinner (shoulder) and Ian Whitten on Friday but they are not as bad as we initially thought so we might come through a bit better than we initially feared after the Gloucester game, but the back five of the scrum is going to challenge us.”

Related topics: