Rob Baxter has called on his squad to establish a whole new level of confidence to the one they needed to hunt down domestic and European glory last season, as Exeter Chiefs become the hunted.
The Premiership and Champions Cup title-holders travel to Twickenham Stoop tonight, a stone’s throw from their crowning moment against Wasps 27 days ago, to begin their defence against Harlequins.
Baxter has named nine of the XV who started the Premiership final in his line-up to face Harlequins for their match shown live on BT Sport.
Outlaying how he aims to prevent the team from regressing, Baxter said adding the major trophies to the cabinet at Sandy Park will matter for little if they do not taste success again in the new season.
“The double champions bit, we’ve got to use to our advantage because if we don’t use it to our advantage, there’s no point in winning it to a degree,” Baxter said.
“What we’ve got to use is that confidence and that ability that we’ve come through some big games to know that if we stick at our process of what we do and make sure we remember what kind of club we are and where our strengths are that you can see yourself through a game over 80 minutes.
“I’m far more pleased that we’ve achieved that because that can build a confidence that can actually be overwhelming for some sides and that’s what we’ve got to work on. We’ve got to work on our confidence to be Exeter Chiefs is the key thing for us in the coming years.
“When you achieve something, your goals can’t go backwards and for us now that’s very much the way I feel – our goals can’t go backwards.
“If we’re not going into next season to win it and we’re not going into next season to win the Heineken Cup, we shouldn’t really be bothering and that’s the reality. Most teams can say that but we’ve got to say it because anything less will be a step back from what we’ve achieved this year.
“So we’ve got to target that, it doesn’t matter how well it goes, in some ways people are going to turn round and say ‘you’ve gone backwards’ and the trophy cabinet is going to say we have.”
Exeter return to the Stoop on Friday evening, the scene of a dramatic 34-30 victory for the home side in February when a penalty try was awarded long after the clock had turned red in the second half.
The team’s reaction to that defeat had much to do with the work Baxter had done to prove those who doubted him wrong, and how that is presented with the team’s performance.
Baxter is still adamant on proving those doubters from more than a decade ago wrong.
“When you get given a job and you decide to take it. Obviously at the time I desperately wanted the job, it’s what I wanted to do, it was everything I wanted to have. But I always had the impression, especially initially early on, that there was a lot of people in the club who thought I should never had have the job or that I didn’t deserve it because I didn’t have a big coaching background.
“That feeling of ‘do you deserve it, do you belong?’, whatever anybody says, is there – it’s part of your make up and that’s kind of been with me for quite a long time even when we’ve been top of the Premiership.
“Getting there and doing it you kind of go ‘there you go, right we can move on now and we can achieve other things’. That’s what I very much felt initially definitely.”
BT Sport is broadcasting all Gallagher Premiership Rugby matches played behind closed doors in the 2020/21 season. The season kicks off on Friday 20th November with Harlequins v Exeter Chiefs at 7.45pm on BT Sport 1 and BT Sport Ultimate.