Exeter's Richie Baxter set for 'biggest' Leinster game

By Brent PilnickBBC South West Sport
Exeter's longest-serving player, Richie Baxter, looks ahead to the club's trip to Leinster in the Heineken Cup.

Exeter Chiefs veteran number eight Richie Baxter says their inaugural Heineken Cup match at champions Leinster is the biggest game in the history of the club.

Baxter, 34, has since making his debut in the old Allied Dunbar Premiership Two in 1997 against Fylde as a 19-year-old.

"This is the biggest team we've ever played," Baxter told BBC South West.

"They're out there as the best team in Europe at the moment."

Baxter's career has risen and fallen along with the fortunes of the Chiefs.

The Chiefs finally broke into the top flight in 2010 after finishing runners up in National Division One in 2008 and again in 2009, before beating Bristol to become winners of the inaugural Championship.

They then finished fifth last season, in just their second Premiership campaign, to for the first time.

"As a group of players it's something we're really looking forward to," Baxter added.

"Individually as players you want to be playing against the best teams and the best players in the world and pitting yourself against them, learning from them and trying to improve your game."

Exeter's rise first started when they sold their old County Ground site and built Sandy Park, which they moved to in 2006.

"I think the move to Sandy Park was the big move that said 'we're serious about getting promoted'.

"We were the first club in that division to put a marker out like that.

"To be part of that rise, getting the club into the Premiership, is something I'm very proud of."

When asked if he ever thought he would one day be heading off to Dublin to play Leinster during those days in English rugby's second tier Baxter said: "Honestly, no.

"At the time when I first started playing the be all and end all was to play for the first team in my home town club.

"I still enjoy playing for Exeter and playing these games is just fantastic."

And while the bookmakers may have Leinster as firm favourites, Baxter and his teammates have shown in the past that they have the will to overcome the odds as they strive to extend the club's upward rise in rugby.

They beat Premiership champions Harlequins last week and almost beat Stade Francais in Paris in the Amlin Cup quarter-finals last season.

"You should never think that you've made it or that you're happy with where you are," Baxter enthuses.

"You should always be looking to improve and work hard and then those opportunities will come your way.

"If you sit back and think everything's alright you won't be getting those opportunities."

Top Stories