Exeter Chiefs boss Rob Baxter ready for Heineken Champions Cup judgement day in ‘All or Nothing’ opener against Munster

ROB BAXTER is ramping up the pressure on his Euro-chasing Exeter Chiefs – delivering an NFL style ‘All or Nothing’ ultimatum.

The Premiership runners-up face Irish giants Munster on Saturday at Sandy Park and, like an American Football team chasing a Super Bowl crown, they have to win at all costs.

Exeter Chiefs boss Rob Baxter is upping the ante at Sandy Park as the Champions Cup comes to town

So Baxter believes the Champions Cup clash will act as something of a judgement day for his ambitious Chiefs after drumming it into them that defeat would be a disastrous way to start.

Bullish Baxter said: “A block of two games is a little bit ‘All or Nothing’ – so you need your players to be saying: ‘Right, we want something out of this.’

“As Europe appeared around the corner we knew Munster were going to lay down a more intense, more physical challenge so we had to start preparing for that.

“You can only start preparing for that if you start talking about weeks beforehand.

The Chiefs were torn apart by Leinster last year – the Irish giants then went on to lift the European crown

“We talked about expecting our players taking charge of things and driving the training intensity and pushing on what we were doing.

“Our performances haven’t been great, but that’s the price you pay sometimes when you do start looking forwards.

“When we were first in the Premiership we talked a lot about enjoying our time there and going out to attack games and not being worried about losing.

“It was more about our performance levels. We did that really well but it wasn’t going to win us the Premiership.

“Over time we shifted a bit more towards individuals taking on a lot more responsibility within a team environment and that has knocked us on a level.

“You do start thinking that some of your training is more based around the following week than this week.

“It’s not necessarily full-on contact stuff, it’s sharpness and a focus on what is happening right in front of you.”

The Chiefs had a year-long Sandy Park unbeaten run crushed by eventual winners Leinster in last season’s double-header.

Leisnter went on the rampage against the Chiefs

And those humblings by Stuart Lancaster’s Irish giants were still fresh in Baxter’s mind as he began plotting this year’s assault on the competition.

He added: “Leinster last year was the big influence. What happened then was the exact opposite of what we want.

“We played one of our best performances the week before against Bath and were pretty rampant and we rolled into the Leinster game.

“We hadn’t lost at home for a long time, we were looking like we could score a lot of points and we were a little bit off in our focus and physicality on the day and paid the price.

“The week after, at Leinster, we probably should have won, but at home we probably hadn’t focused on something being different that week.

“I don’t want that to happen again. Munster have been preparing for this game for three weeks. I think what we do will work in Europe – it’s just we have to do it really well.”

Two-times champs Saracens kick-off their campaign at Glasgow Warriors on Sunday.

And their boss Mark McCall says his squad are fired-up from having to watch the knock-out stages of the competition after losing in the quarter-finals to Leinster.

Saracens boss Mark McCall is raring to go in the Champions Cup

The Prem champ said: “Nobody enjoyed watching the semifinals and final which we weren’t involved in.

“Last year it just felt like we were playing catch-up from round three, scraped our way into an away quarterfinal against Leinster which is not ideal.

“There is no margin for error in this competition. It’s different from the Premiership. You can’t afford to slip up. We know that.

“They’re an ambitious group who want to do well in both competitions and they didn’t enjoy watching the final. I think they believe we can do well in it this season.

Sarries last won the tournament in 2017

“They know we’re good enough. It doesn’t mean anything because we have to perform and we have a really tough opening game against Glasgow.”


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