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Baxter swaps farm for forwards

At this time of year, Rob Baxter can usually be found on the family farm or the local beach, taking a bit of time away from rugby - but not this summer.

Instead, Baxter finds himself in the foothills of the Andes preparing an England pack for the first of two Tests against Argentina. The Exeter director of rugby has taken on the interim role of forwards coach while Graham Rowntree is on British and Irish Lions duty in Australia and he is relishing the opportunity.

"If I was at home I would probably be doing a bit of farming. The month after the season finishes is when you can have a bit of time away from the club," Baxter said. "It was half-term last week so I would probably have tried to hit the beach but this is a great experience for me."

He added: "I am determined to enjoy it and hopefully prove I am a successful coach with a different group of players."

Baxter's elevation to the England set-up is recognition of the work he has done at Exeter, first to get them promoted into the Aviva Premiership and then deliver Heineken Cup rugby to Sandy Park, but for the former lock, the journey started in the lower divisions two decades ago when he first took over the captaincy of Exeter.

"If you backtrack three or four years and you sit there and say right, in three or four years you might be coaching England in Argentina you would probably say, 'Let's get real about this'," Baxter said. "But when you are taking part in it and slow steps happen it's not so surprising.

"When I took over as captain some 20-odd years ago we had just been relegated to the Fourth Division. Then we got promoted to the Third Division and then the Second Division.

"We were there for a long time and we lost in the second tier cup competition three times at Twickenham before we were promoted to the Premiership and finished eighth in our first season.

"They have all been quite gradual steps. I say to people all the time we didn't just wake up in the Premiership. It wasn't a dream. We had to work very hard to take those steps.

"When you have been part of the journey it does not feel like a miracle or a massive step but I do know where people are coming from, if you look back at see what happens three or four years ago."


From Belfast Telegraph