Rob Baxter: Exeter have 'earned right' to rest players against Wasps

By Brent PilnickBBC Sport
Rob Baxter
Rob Baxter's side are eight points clear of second-placed Wasps with one game to go

Director of rugby Rob Baxter says Exeter have earned the right to pick a weakened side for their final Premiership game on Sunday.

Baxter's side have secured first place and may rest players against Wasps with a Premiership semi-final and Champions Cup final against Racing 92 to come.

Wasps are one of four teams contesting the final three semi-final places.

"As a group we've earned the opportunity to organise these games how we want to," Baxter told BBC Sport.

"The only thing we'll be focusing on is what's good for us as a club. We've earned that right, in a very difficult scenario, to be in a position to manage ourselves now."

Just two points separate second-placed Wasps from Bristol, who are fifth. The Bears travel to London Irish while fourth-placed Sale host Worcester and Bath, who are third, go to Saracens in Sunday's final round of fixtures.

"The key is going to be having the largest and best group ready to play big games of rugby as possible," Baxter added.

"And some of that does include guys getting some minutes against Wasps and for other guys it means giving the chance to have a really good training period of 10 days in preparation for the semi-final.

"The players have earned the right to get to semi-finals and finals and we have to manage that to the best of our ability, and the reality is it's for everyone else to get themselves into the top four and find out where they end up.

"That's not the responsibility of us any more. We've done our bit."

Since the Premiership resumed after the coronavirus lockdown, clubs have had to fit in nine rounds of fixtures in seven weeks, along with European knockout matches.

Exeter put out a weakened side on Wednesday as they lost 22-19 at home to London Irish. Only three of the squad were involved in the Champions Cup semi-final win over Toulouse four days earlier.

"I think in this season even more - with mid-week games and minutes limited, game-time limited, starts limited - there's no argument because there hasn't been one team in the recent block of seven or eight Premiership games that has played a full strength team every week," he added.

"I can't see how there's any argument from anybody to say that there's an integrity issue."

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