Baxter reacts to Champions Cup draw

Mark Stevens
Authored by Mark Stevens
Posted Wednesday, June 19, 2019 - 3:29pm

Exeter Chiefs newcomer Stuart Hogg won't have to wait long for a reunion with former club Glasgow Warriors after the two clubs were drawn alongside one another in today's Heineken Champions Cup draw in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Picked out as one of the five Tier One sides, the Chiefs have been drawn against the Warriors, French outfit La Rochelle and Gallagher Premiership rivals Sale Sharks in a highly competitive Pool 2.

Former internationals Bryan Habana and Dimitri Yachvili conducted the draw, which brings together the top 20 club sides in European Rugby.

For Hogg, however, the draw means he will be quickly reacquainted with the Scottish club, whom he has spent the past nine years playing for.

The Chiefs have recent history against the Warriors in this very competition, tackling them in 2017/18 where they defeated them 24-15 here at Sandy Park, before going down 28-21 at Scotstoun in Round Six, a loss which also meant Rob Baxter's side were unable to qualify for the knock-out stages.

The two clubs also during the 2013/14 season, where the Warriors won both fixtures. That triumphed 20-16 at Scotstoun, before then picking up a 15-10 win at Sandy Park.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs have also previously faced La Rochelle in European battle, this time in the Challenge Cup back in the 2014/15 season.

On both occasions, Baxter’s team emerged victorious, winning 36-10 at the Stade Marcel Deflandre in December 2014, before following it up a week later with an equally impressive 41-17 win on home soil.

Completing the pool are Sale Sharks, who the Chiefs know plenty about having tackled them every year in the Premiership since their promotion into the top flight back in 2010. This will, however, be the first meeting of the two clubs in European competition.

Reflecting on today’s draw, Director of Rugby Baxter said: “It was almost destined that with us having signed Stuart from Glasgow this season that he would end up facing them in Europe. I think he even predicted it himself in an interview last week!

“Having played Glasgow in the past, we know they will pose a tough challenge to us. They have a team packed with Scottish internationals and are a team, a bit like ourselves, who really like to attack. A couple of years ago we got the better of them here in the early rounds, but then they got their own back on us by beating us in that final round game up in the snow.

“As for La Rochelle, it’s been a few years since we faced them in the Challenge Cup. Again, they will be a different beast to what they were back then – and as for Sale, every year when you look at the fixture list, you always know going up there is one of your toughest away days.

“Yes, it’s another tough group when you look at it on paper, but this is the top competition in Europe so there shouldn’t be any easy games in there. I’m sure the other teams will be looking at this pool and thinking it’s not going to be easy, especially with Exeter in there.”

Baxter has made no secret of the fact that he is keen to see his Chiefs side kick on in Europe’s top club competition this season. Just once before have the Devonians advanced into the latter stages of the

Champions Cup, that was back in 2016 when Jimmy Gopperth’s last-gasp conversion saw Wasps to a 25-24 victory at the Ricoh Arena.

“It’s a good draw for us,” added Baxter. “At the same time, I want us to start setting ourselves these challenges of being a top European side. We’ve been guilty in the past of not quite reaching our potential within this competition, but hopefully that will change this season.”

Dates and kick-off times for all this season’s fixtures in the Heineken Champions Cup will be released at a later date.

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