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Exeter Chiefs’ Rob Baxter Backs Welsh Stars To Lead Them Back To The Top

By Gareth James

Wales pair Christ Tshiunza and Dafydd Jenkins have been backed to take Exeter Chiefs back to the top after their European exit.

Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter has expressed excitement about the club’s future after an era ended with their 47-28 Heineken Champions Cup semi-final defeat last weekend to reigning champions La Rochelle.

The loss in Bordeaux was a farewell performance for a number of Baxter’s frontline stars like Sam and Joe Simmonds, Jack Nowell, Stuart Hogg and Jannes Kirsten, unless they are picked for a dead rubber Premiership game against London Irish next weekend.

Exeter are back in sixth place in the Gallagher Premiership and cannot make the play-offs, meaning Baxter is already looking towards next season.

Their new campaign with involve a total nine Welsh players – including new signing Joe Hawkins – and Baxter insists the club can continue to be at top end of European and domestic rugby.

Besides Tshiunza, Jenkins and Hawkins, the Devon club also have Ollie Burrows, Iestyn Harris, Orson James, Iwan Jenkins, Immanuel Fey-Waboso and Dan John on their books.

“We have got to look at the positives and we have got to move forward,” Baxter said.

“Exeter Rugby Club will still be playing next weekend against London Irish in the Premiership, we will still be turning up for the first game of next season, and we have got to get on with things without these players.

“I am going to miss these guys because they are amazing players and I count some of them as life-long friends of mine and we have done some incredible things together.

“We have been on a journey together for 12, 13, 14 years with some of them, but I am also looking forward to next year because I would like to start a journey with some of these other players.

“It will be amazing to watch guys like Will Becconsall, Tom Wyatt and Tom Cairns, guys who have just got into the team, and Christ Tshiunza, Daf Jenkins, it will be amazing to watch these guys lift a trophy one day, and that’s what we have got to focus on now.”

La Rochelle set up a repeat of last year’s final against Leinster in the May 20 showpiece in Dublin.

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