Rob Baxter: Exeter Chiefs on Covid-19 ‘red alert’, says director of rugby


Exeter celebrate winning the Premiership
Exeter celebrated winning the Premiership and Champions Cup finals in front of empty stadiums due to Covid-19

Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter says the English and European champions are on “red alert” over possible Covid-19 infections.

The Chiefs have had few positive cases since the start of the pandemic, with the West Country affected less by the virus than other areas of the UK.

Exeter start their Premiership title defence at Harlequins on Friday.

“We’re very much on red alert because we’re also aware that we’ve had very little of it in the camp,” he said.

Sale missed the play-offs after a series of positive tests forced them to forfeit their game with Worcester, while Wasps, Exeter’s opponents in the Premiership final, almost had to withdraw after a number of players tested positive.

Sale boss Steve Diamond said on Tuesday that the club had been “cleared” of any wrongdoing after an enquiry into their high rate of Covid-19 cases by both the Rugby Football Union and Public health England

“We had an antibody test very early on which showed very few people, literally two or three people within the 50-man group, had Covid already in that pre-lockdown and lockdown period,” added Baxter.

“That’s different to a lot of clubs, and I know that because I’ve spoken to other directors of rugby. Some clubs know they’ve had it very early on before we came back into training and have relatively little worries about it.

“We here have had so little of it that we’re very worried about it because if it’s going to get into the community then it’s very hard for it not to get into a rugby environment, no matter how good you are.”

Meanwhile, Baxter says his club may need to do more to assess any emotional impact on his players from the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdowns that have followed.

“I’ve probably been a little bit remiss of that, probably based around the fact that by winning trophies there’s an assumption that emotionally we stay pretty good on things,” he said.

“But I have to admit, now talking about it, it’s certainly something I’ll potentially look into in the next couple of weeks and discuss with our medical team, particularly whether there is something else we need to do, especially now with lockdown being extended.”

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