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‘Having a smack in the face just reminds you of how tough it is’

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Exeter players have had clear-the-air discussions following their crushing Gallagher Premiership defeat by Sale – a result that Chiefs rugby director Rob Baxter described as “a smack in the face”.

West Country rivals Bath await Exeter in a mouthwatering Investec Champions Cup round-of-16 clash at Sandy Park on Saturday.

And it will come just six days after the 2020 European champions were destroyed 41-5 by Sale, leaving Exeter two points outside the Premiership play-off zone.

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“The players had a fairly long meeting on Tuesday where they wanted to clear the air among themselves and talk bits and pieces through,” Baxter said.

“For a young team, sometimes having a smack in the face just reminds you of how tough it is going to be and how hard you have got to work and cannot take things for granted.

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Exeter Chiefs

Bath

“They wanted to do it, and I thought it was a good idea. It allowed them to clear the air among themselves, and letting the players clear their heads at the start of the week was the important thing.

“It just felt the right thing to do, it felt we had to let them get it off their chests in their way.

“It wouldn’t have been the same if we had all sat in a meeting with all the coaches. That’s human nature.

“They don’t want to spend the whole week waiting for us to have a go at them. They are better off just knowing that’s not coming and they get it off their chests.”

Baxter admitted there was very little to review after the performance against Sale, with the Tom Roebuck-inspired Sharks scoring six tries as they revived their play-off hopes.

“When you don’t turn up, and the other team does, the gap can look quite big quite quickly,” he added.

“The truth is there was very little for us to review as a team, so why waste too much time on it?

“What could we review? We couldn’t really view much attack, we couldn’t review a lot of defence because we never really fronted up in any individual tackle, we couldn’t review much at set-piece because we kind of got manhandled up front when it came to one-on-one contests.

“There wasn’t a lot of point just sitting there going through the same thing and saying, ‘we lost that, we lost that, we lost that, we lost that’. So we have got to move on pretty quickly.”

A European quarter-final place is now at stake against French heavyweights Toulouse or Racing 92.

Bath claimed a 41-24 victory when they last faced Exeter in December, but the Chiefs have lost only one Premiership or European game at home this season.

“They are a very strong team across the board, and it is going to be a significant challenge for us,” Baxter said.

“You could say that it (the Sale defeat) looked like a game between a team that would like to win and there was a team that was desperate to win, and we’ve got to make sure that we are the team that is desperate to win this weekend.

“We have got to be excited by the fact it is a knockout game in Europe at home in front of a sellout crowd.”



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