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Baxter expects Premiership shake-up with no relegation

SPOTLIGHT: Exeter supremo Rob Baxter has forecast there will be further surprise results in England’s Premiership while relegation no longer remains an option.


The most recent round of results over the holiday period saw the top three teams – Saracens, Sale and Harlequins – fall to the bottom three with London Irish, Newcastle and Bristol all upsetting the form-book.

Exeter too was almost undone before seeing off Bath on Christmas Eve to leave their southwest rivals bottom of the table.

Relegation won’t return to the English top flight until the 2024/25 season at the earliest – a decision taken long before this term’s financial collapse of Worcester and Wasps saw both clubs expelled from the Premiership as the league was reduced to 11 teams.

In the meantime, Baxter believes that, with no fear of the drop, sides are much more prepared to take chances in attack.

“The league is so different without relegation – people probably don’t quite realise that,” Baxter said.

“A perfect example is when we’ve been to Newcastle when they’ve been in the bottom two. It’s very hard to play with the ambition and desire that they play with now because there’s so much hanging on the result.”


He added: “They’re not looking over their shoulder, they’re looking upwards all the time. So now you’re never in a scenario where a team aren’t coming after you.

“So I think all these competitive results are going to happen more and more often. You’ll see an increasing amount of them.”

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Premiership Round 14 fixtures

Exeter faces leaders Saracens on New Year’s Eve, after which a flurry of new regulations designed to speed up the game, including a shot clock of goal-kickers and reduced use of the television match official (TMO) are set to take effect.

But Baxter said the continual altering of rugby union’s already complex law book, especially during the season, was “madness”.


“We’ve got to decide on something and settle on it for longer periods than we do,” he said.

“A lot of times we’re having to change law variations back because six months later they realise we should never have done them. Or they try and tinker with something else.

“It’s almost become part of rugby now that things have to change during the season. It just seems madness to me and we’ve got to get out of it.”

Premiership standings after 13 rounds

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