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Rob Baxter details ‘open policy’ in giving backs experience

Rob Baxter has opened up on why the Chiefs have an ‘open policy’ on giving backs experience across the backline, following Zack Wimbush’s move to 13.

Rob Baxter has opened up on why the Chiefs have an ‘open policy’ on giving backs experience across the backline, following Zack Wimbush’s move to 13.

Wimbush, a current Exeter University student, originally got his chance on the wing, however following Henry Slade’s call-up to the England squad he has been given game time at 13, a move which Rob Baxter says will suit him moving forward.

“With Zack, he’s played wing and centre at university; and we’re comfortable with him playing both, we’ll select him as it works within the squad and within the team,” he told Rugby Nause News

“What will end up being his best position? I think it would likely be centre, but we’re very comfortable picking guys wherever we feel is right for the team.”

He also detailed the club have an ‘open policy’ within the backline, which allows players to get a taste of key positions: “We have a pretty open policy with all the backs that is basically outside of 9 and 10, the back line then gets made up of the best players.”

“We then have an expectation that if we move someone from centre to wing that actually at that stage they’re still the best option and we just get on with it.”

He added: “I think that lets guys develop and it’s incredible how often you see something come out of a player that you weren’t expecting.”

Rob Baxter on past successes of the ‘open policy’

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Patrick Khachfe/JMP/Shutterstock 10266059bs Henry Slade of Exeter Chiefs with team-mate Jack Nowell Exeter Chiefs v Saracens, UK – 01 Jun 2019 Exeter Chiefs v Saracens, UK – 01 Jun 2019 PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTXHUNxGRExMLTxCYPxROMxBULxUAExKSAxONLY Copyright: xPatrickxKhachfe/JMP/Shutterstockx 10266059bs

This open policy is nothing new for the Chiefs.

In the past, players like Ian Whitten, Joe Simmonds and Harvey Skinner have all been deployed in various positions across the backline, however the two biggest success stories have been Henry Slade and Jack Nowell.

The pair were a part of the golden generation, and came through the academy together to become key parts of the Chiefs team, and Rob Baxter detailed how this ‘open policy’ worked well for them.

“The one people can remember is Jack Nowell. He was a full-back all through the academy, and played Premiership Cup at full-back; but we actually thought that his best opportunity in the first team at Premiership level would be on the wing.”

He added: “We put him on the wing and then what do you know, he has a stellar career on the wing. He’s played for England on the wing numerous times, won trophies on the wing and played for Lions on the wing.”

Baxter also detailed the various positions Henry Slade played before settling on 13: “Henry Slade was the same. He came to us as a 10, but we picked him at 12 initially, then we moved him to 13. England wanted to look at him at 12 at the start, so we put him in a 12 shirt, but he played 13.”

The latest hopeful is the afore mentioned Wimbush, with the current student impressing at senior level both on the wing and in the centres. Will he follow in the footsteps of those before him?