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Rob Baxter urges Exeter to 'make a home semi-final happen' in Aviva Premiership

Published 14/04/2016

Rob Baxter wants to see Exeter bounce back from a shattering European Champions Cup defeat
Rob Baxter wants to see Exeter bounce back from a shattering European Champions Cup defeat

Rob Baxter is determined to see his Exeter players remain firmly in control of their Aviva Premiership play-off destiny during the next three weeks.

Just six days after suffering European Champions Cup quarter-final heartache when Wasps fly-half Jimmy Gopperth's injury time conversion saw them suffer a 25-24 defeat, the Chiefs resume domestic business against Gloucester at Kingsholm on Friday.

Victory over Gloucester would take Exeter top of the Premiership, although Saracens would reclaim pole position if they beat Harlequins at Wembley on Saturday.

And with just three rounds of regular season action left, Chiefs head coach Baxter knows the importance of carrying on winning.

"We have three rounds of Premiership fixtures now, and we are second, so it is in our hands to finish second," he said.

"We can't control who finishes first because Saracens are playing their games, but we are in second place. If we win our games and pick up (bonus) points then we will stay second and we can make it work and make a home semi-final happen.

"I am not afraid to say that to the players and say that if someone puts something in your hands, you take it and make sure you take charge of it. That is our aim over the next two or three weeks."

Exeter show one change from the side defeated in Coventry last Saturday, with a knee injury sidelining their Scotland international prop Moray Low, so Harry Williams - a try-scorer at the Ricoh Arena - replaces him, with Carl Rimmer featuring among the substitutes.

Gloucester also made a European exit last weekend, being beaten at home by Challenge Cup quarter-final opponents Newport Gwent Dragons, and Baxter added: "It is almost the perfect game coming out of the European weekend.

"It is two teams that suffered close losses and who put a lot emotionally into the game and now have a short turnaround, and it is a great test for both sides to see who can re-energise and reinvigorate themselves quickly for an important game of rugby.

"We are not preparing to go there to play a Gloucester team on its way down, we are preparing to play a Gloucester team that is prepared to fight, and we know we will have to turn up mentally and physically bang on to make sure we put in a big performance."

Gloucester show four changes from the Dragons defeat, with prop Yann Thomas, lock Jeremy Thrush and flanker Ross Moriarty all featuring up-front, while Billy Twelvetrees returns in midfield.

"They (Exeter) were magnificent last week and unlucky to lose. But, throughout the year, they've been very consistent in their performances," Gloucester rugby director David Humphreys said.

"It's a huge test for us, a huge test of the players' character and their ability to bounce back. Many of the recent meetings between us have been one-score games and incredibly tight.

"We have analysed last weekend's game, but now put that behind us. That's sport, that's all you can do - learn from it and look forward to the next game.

"It is consistency we are striving for. We put in a good performance against Leicester, but then were poor last week.

"No-one is panicking, it's not a case of throwing everything out and trying to start again. We know we have good players. We've produced some very good performances this season."

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