Exeter rugby director Rob Baxter said ‘rugby is being marked’ as only 10,000 fans were allowed to watch Saturday’s Gallagher Premier League final against Harlequins At Twickenham while special exemptions have been granted for other sporting events such as the Euros and Wimbledon.
With 65000 now set to Attend the European Championship semi-finals and final بطولة At Wembley, and crowds allowed in the men’s and women’s singles finals at Wimbledon, Baxter believes rugby union could have been given more leeway. “I don’t think anyone involved in rugby doesn’t shake their heads when they see the crowd numbers that will be at other sporting events,” Baxter said.
“What can Twickenham, 82,000 hold? It seems very strange when other sporting venues have been allowed a quarter of their capacity. It seems that almost every other sport has events with over 10,000 people taking place there. I don’t know why rugby was chosen.”
This issue is of particular interest to Exeter, who snatched the European and local double in empty stadiums last fall. “It’s clearly frustrating for his supporters,” Baxter confirmed. “There are thousands who have gone who now won’t be able to go. It’s a shame but I suppose you just have to keep taking the positives. We went to two finals last year without fans. Getting 10,000 in there is better than not having anyone there at all.”
Baxter also suggested that Jack Noel, who is shining again, could be a valuable addition to the British and Irish Lions in South Africa this summer after returning twice in the league. The Chiefs win the semi-finals at Sale Sharks. “Even last weekend I was touched and saw him do it over and over,” Baxter joked. “He put himself back in the shop window. Now he’s able to run and I can’t believe he’s not on the Lions’ radar as well as England. The whole summer could open up to him.”
However, Noel’s return was less pleasant for Scotland’s captain, Stuart Hogg, who was brought off the bench in the Sale match and had another one-on-one conversation with Baxter on Monday.
“He’s very angry and very frustrated in all the right ways,” said the coach. “That’s what I expect. I don’t expect a successful professional athlete and world-renowned player to be happy not to be in the team that plays in the big matches. He’s upset about not being in the team but he’s been very good in training this week. It seems to me that he is preparing to do everything in His power to help win the Premier League Cup.”
Young winger Richard Capstick is also set to be available after suffering a concussion last week as Exeter seek to become only the fifth English club since forming the leagues to win back-to-back domestic titles. said Baxter, who was wary of the offensive ability it afforded Harlequins stuns Bristol last Saturday.
“We like to think, based on our defensive stats during the season, that we can defend a little bit more. But if we’re defending all day against the Harlequins, you’re going to struggle sometimes. The key for us is to play our game. If only we can assume that experience can help and we connect. The Harlequins’ enthusiasm and energy can overwhelm us. We’ll talk about how we can channel our emotions and energy into being the best version of the Exeter Chiefs.”