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Exeter Chiefs

Rob Baxter details selection headache ahead of clash with Newcastle Falcons

Exeter Chiefs Director of Rugby Rob Baxter has said he’s had a ‘tough few days’ of selection following a number of back five forwards returning from either injury or Six Nations action.

Exeter Chiefs Director of Rugby Rob Baxter has said he’s had a ‘tough few days’ of selection following a number of back five forwards returning from either injury or Six Nations action.

The Devonians have already been spoiled for choice in this area of the scrum, with the likes of Dafydd Jenkins, Lewis Pearson, Rusi Tuima, Greg Fisilau, Ethan Roots and Jacques Vermeulen all impressing this season; but amongst that Exeter now also welcome back Richard Capstick and Christ Tshiunza.

This wealth of riches in the back five of the scrum have left Rob Baxter having to make tough decisions.

“It’s been a tough few days working out how we want to work this combination,” he told members of the media ahead of his side’s clash with Newcastle.

“We’re looking at selection in the back five of the scrum; even with us removing Daf (Jenkins) this week, Rusi Tuima and Lewis Pearson have been mainstays for us this season and they’ve gone very well. Jack Dunne’s come through in those last few games and was playing very well.”

“Around the second row there, we’ve got game time now into Eoin O’Connor as well through this little period and he’s starting to look better now.”

It isn’t just the second-row where Rob Baxter is having selection issues, as he also has a fully loaded back-row too.

“Then you look at the back-row; we’ve got Ethan Roots back from England duty, Greg Fisilau who was England A, we’ve got Richard Capstick back up and running, and going very, very well. Ross Vintcent is back from Italy, Christ Tshiunza is now fully fit, Jacques Vermeulen has been a big player for us for a number of years.”

He added: “All of a sudden you look and you go, wow, the back five of our scrum is starting to look like we can push through. We can maybe freshen it up and we can challenge all the lads on the quality of their training.”

Rob Baxter on players shifting across positions

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Exeter’s scrum has been great all season, and it’s allowing their back-row players in particular to thrive.

Fisilau has quickly become a mainstay in the eight jersey, Vermeulen is having one of his best seasons in an Exeter jersey and Roots has won a spot in the England squad for his efforts.

Around this though, they now have two major competitors for their spots in the form of Capstick and Tshiunza. Both players have been key cogs of the Exeter team in recent years, however have missed the entirety of the season this year through injury.

The quality Exeter possess across the pack, and the now increased competition for places, means players might have to shift positions if they want to get some game time; but Baxter detailed his players are more than happy to do this.

“We’ve got a lot of lads in the last couple of days have said to me they’re up to play any position in the back five of the scrum; whether it’s second row, eight, six, anywhere that gets near the pitch. It’s brilliant.”

Players like Rusi Tuima, Lewis Pearson and Jacques Vermeulen have already seen plenty of game time in different positions, but it could be a case the Exeter back five is now one fluid unit.