Euro Challenge Excite Baxter
12th June 2014
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Earlier this week the Devon club were paired with French duo Bayonne and La Rochelle, as well as Irish outfit Connacht in Pool Two of the new-look European Professional Rugby Challenge Cup.

Poised for a fifth adventure into Europe, Baxter believes past experiences - particularly those in the Heineken Cup over the last two years - have helped not only to mould his team, but at the same time assist their on-field development.

And the Exeter leader believes the new look to both European competitions this season will again help to bring the best out of his squad as they look to underline their credentials on foreign soil.

Baxter said: “I think it’s a tough draw for us. From my perspective, the pleasing thing is that it’s against teams we haven’t played in front-line competitions before.

“We’ve played Connacht a couple of times in pre-season but we haven’t played them in a front-line competition.

“They have a pretty good history in the European competitions, particularly at home. We know that’s going to be tough but it’s a great place to go and play rugby, a great trip for our supporters.

“We’ve also got two Top 14 sides and sides that we haven’t played before, in Bayonne and La Rochelle.

“That’s a really good group, there’s going to be some really good rugby experiences. I think that’s what’s important about the Challenge Cup, we can use it like we did in our first two seasons and use it as part of our season and see where we want to go as our season develops.

“There’s no doubt the Premiership has to be our bread and butter and our focus. I’m not going to run away from the fact that we want to be back in the top-tier European competition, like we’ve been in for the last couple of years, but it’s important that we use the season as a whole and the competitions within it to make sure our primary focus of getting in the top half of the table is what we achieve.”

Indeed, Baxter says last season was a breakthrough year for many of his players and he believes experiences gained during the campaign will serve his squad well.

“You want tough experiences and big games against good sides because ultimately that’s what makes you better,” he said. “Our focus is still on getting better as a Premiership side, making sure our players get better and more experienced.

“We had some guys getting some relatively good experience last year, that will happen again this year. We’re got a lot of guys who are a year on and I think it’s only fair to expect more from them as they get more experience in the top flight.”

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Dave B

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