Exeter Chiefs: Club can retain identity if stars leave, says boss Rob Baxter

Two of Exeter’s home-grown British and Irish Lions players Jack Nowell and Luke Cowan-Dickie have been linked with overseas moves.

Exeter boss Rob Baxter says he does not believe his side’s identity will be lost if several of his best home-grown stars leave the club in the summer.

Reports have also linked England and British Lions hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie with a move to Montpellier while fellow academics Jack Nowell and Dave Ewers will also be out of contract.

“I’m not afraid of the identity being lost,” Baxter said.

“At the end of the day, people think our identity for a period around that was about that core group, but it wasn’t about that core group being from Devon or Cornwall.

“It was great that they were from our academy and it was great that they were local, but actually it was the people that they were that made it work and that’s what we have to do, we have to become those kind of people with that kind of layer.

“It’s more about what we are in our DNA as players and as a club than it is the fact that you’re local.”

Of Cowan-Dickie’s future, Baxter said: “What remains to be done is a definitive answer. It is not my place to say now which way it will go one way or the other.”

As for Ewers and Nowell, Baxter would only say, “I don’t think they’ve signed for anybody else, but they haven’t signed for us.”

‘Things will change’

Sam Simmonds
Sam Simmonds joins Montpellier two years after setting the Premier League’s single-season try-scoring record.

Last season saw Exeter England and British Lions second-row Jonny Hill, home-grown Scotland lock Sam Skinner, winger Tom O’Flaherty and back-row Will Witty all leave for more lucrative deals elsewhere that the Chiefs could not match.

Nowell, Simmonds, Cowan-Dickie, Henry Slade and Jack Maunder have all come through Exeter’s youth system and gone on to win England honors and help the team win two national and one European title.

With a reduced £5 million salary cap and only one player waiver, Premier League teams are finding it difficult to retain top players. A richer league in France could be a big lure for internationals who are in their late twenties early thirties after next autumn’s World Cup.

And despite Worcester and Wasps being forced out of the Premier League due to financial problems and Exeter having to sell their stake in the hotel they built to balance their books following the Covid-19 pandemic, Baxter says the future of England’s top division will be better in the coming years.

“Things will change as the economic environment changes, it always has in the past, I think we have to be careful not to get caught up in this real negative spiral that we’re all getting into at the moment,” he said.

“Next year is the last year of the £5m cap, after that I think the year after that there will be an incredible number of clubs, I know we’ll be the same, we’ll spend what we can afford to spend .

“Whether it’s full cap and all the credits and the one marquee player, or whether it’s less than that, that’s what we’re going to do.

“But we’ve always worked that way anyway, and if the economic situation eventually changes, I would think the rate could go up.

“The hat had been quite progressive for the last five or six years, until Covid hit, so it was a progressive system that went up and it went forward, so there’s nothing in history that says it wouldn’t happen again once we ” has become more financially stable.”

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