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Rob Baxter wants Exeter's best performance this season in Wasps play-off

Published 17/05/2016

Exeter head coach Rob Baxter is relishing Saturday's Aviva Premiership play-off clash against Wasps
Exeter head coach Rob Baxter is relishing Saturday's Aviva Premiership play-off clash against Wasps

Rob Baxter expects that Exeter will need to produce their best performance of the season against Wasps in an Aviva Premiership play-off showdown on Saturday.

Just six years after Exeter clinched promotion to English rugby's top-flight, victory over Wasps would leave them 80 minutes away from possibly being crowned Premiership champions.

It might not quite be a story of Leicester City proportions, but Exeter's remarkable rise under head coach Baxter is unquestionably high up on sport's best-seller list.

And another memorable chapter will be written at Sandy Park this weekend if the Chiefs - they face Wasps for the fourth time in five months - can book a May 28 Twickenham appointment with Saracens or Leicester.

"It is the usual emotions before a big game - a bit nervous, a bit edgy, but excited at the same time," Baxter said.

"The lads are ready to crack on. Training is getting in the way a little bit, which is a good thing in a lot of ways.

"It is about making sure that by the time Friday comes around, we are emotionally pretty much bang on, and then ready to turn up and put in what should be our best performance of the season if we want to get anything out of the game.

"We have got a good record here (at Sandy Park). It is great to be in front of our own supporters, but the truth is that home records don't mean anything if you don't turn up, get on with the game and play very well."

Exeter's recent play-off preparation has been impressive, with Wasps being dismissed 24-3 when they visited Devon 16 days ago, before Harlequins shipped 62 points at home to a rampant Chiefs outfit.

"We have been good the last couple of weeks," Baxter added. "The big focus for me is just making sure we are ready to work as hard as we have been.

"In theory, it is the biggest game of all of them this season (against Wasps). Both ourselves and Wasps have worked extremely hard this season to get here, and I can't imagine either of us want to give it up without a real fight.

"We both had a week off last week. There are not going to be any excuses. It should be a cracking game.

"We've won some big games before. Dai (Wasps rugby director Dai Young) has said the same thing, he wants to see the best of Wasps, and what I want to see is the best of Exeter."

Exeter won both Premiership matches against Wasps this term, but the Chiefs were undone by final-kick drama in a pulsating European Champions Cup quarter-final last month when Jimmy Gopperth' s conversion inflicted a 25-24 defeat on them.

"Both ourselves and Wasps probably know a fair bit about each other's game-plan, so really there is the opportunity to bring in the odd little thing, and I think both of us will do that," Baxter said.

"But also, it is about us both trying to make the best of what we've got and the way we play, and not trying to find magic answers. A lot of the time in a game of rugby, there aren't too many magical answers.

"The reality is that over 80 minutes, you probably have to win the work-rate battle and the physicality battle first and foremost.

"We will both be aiming to do that, and I think that ultimately is going to be the key - the energy and enthusiasm about the physical contest is what's going to decide the game.

"If it's tight - and I imagine a game between two good sides will be close for quite a while - a lot of the time, it is the team that breaks first and decides it has to try something a little bit different or just gets away from their plan that makes mistakes.

"When it has been tight these last couple of weeks, we've stuck at things."

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