Rob Baxter says he is 'sad' to lose Exeter stars like Jack Nowell

Exeter Director of Rugby Rob Baxter claims he is ‘sad’ and ‘frustrated’ to see homegrown players like Jack Nowell leave England for France… but claims ‘there is an excitement at rebuilding the club’

  • Rob Baxter has said he is ‘sad’ that many of his players are being lured away  
  • Jack Nowell will be the latest to leave Exeter and go to France in big money deal
  • Luke Cowan-Dickie and Sam Simmonds have also agreed to move to Montpellier
  • Baxter said that English clubs are struggling to compete due to the  salary cap

Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter has mixed emotions as he is forced to undertake a rebuilding job at Sandy Park following the departure of his homegrown England stars.

Baxter has led the Chiefs through the English rugby pyramid to win two Premiership titles and a Champions Cup, but this season feels like the end of an era.

Exeter’s England and Lions pair Luke Cowan-Dickie and Sam Simmonds have both agreed to join French giants Montpellier for next season.

Exeter Director of Rugby Rob Baxter says he is ‘sad’ players are leaving the club for France

Jack Nowell is the latest player to announce he will be moving abroad to play in the Top 14

Baxter admitted this week he is preparing for life without another of his English Lions in Jack Nowell, with the wing also expected to move overseas.

Exeter host Northampton today knowing they must start winning if they are to avoid what would be a second straight season of mid-table mediocrity.

‘It’s sad and it’s frustrating when you see players leave who have been very important and fundamental here. There is an emotional side to it,’ Baxter said.

‘You want to keep guys who have succeeded and worked hard for the club together. You don’t want to see them go, but at the same time that’s life. There is an excitement at rebuilding the squad and looking around.’

Luke Cowan-Dickie will also be leaving Exeter for Montpellier at the end of the season 

England No 8 Sam Simmonds will be joining Cowan-Dickie in the south of France next season

All 11 Premiership clubs are operating within the league’s tightened salary cap of £5million — the amount of money each team can spend on its squad each year.

Cowan-Dickie and Simmonds have accepted huge financial offers abroad, despite knowing doing so will bring their England careers to an end. Nowell is expected to soon follow suit.

‘If you look at where we are in the Champions Cup and Premiership Cup, we have got an awful lot to fight for across the board and we will do that,’ said Baxter ahead of the Northampton game.

‘But at the same time, when you know you have the players we do leaving and there are questions around the salary cap and what we can offer, you do have to go through an element of rebuilding.

Exeter were thumped 35-3 by Saracens on New Year’s Eve failing to score a try in the match

They host Northampton on Saturday and must win to bring themselves into play-off contention

‘You have to do that every year. Sometimes you do it more successfully than others. It’s an ongoing process. You can do as much rebuilding as you like, but you want to do it from a platform that has good fundamentals. 

‘That is what will see us through the good times and the bad times as a rugby club. The tough times are always around the corner, you just want to keep them away for as long as you can.

‘Our battle now is to have a good streak. If we do, we will look good. If we have a poor streak, it is going to look pretty dismal. That’s where we are at this stage of the season.’

Exeter were humbled at Saracens last weekend but do have Cowan-Dickie and Simmonds back to face a Northampton side flying high after their dismantling of Harlequins.

Phil Dowson’s Saints have George Furbank at fly-half but the promising Fin Smith is ruled out after suffering a head injury against Quins and England’s Courtney Lawes is still absent with a glute injury.

Northampton have tasted victory on their last two visits to Sandy Park but a hat-trick might be beyond them given they have only won once on their Premiership travels since April.

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