Chiefs boss Baxter hopes title is not journey's end
INTERVIEW: Rob Baxter prays the remarkable fairytale which has seen his Exeter Chiefs progress from the second tier to being crowned English champions will continue in the fast approaching 2017/18 campaign.
The 46-year-old - an Exeter institution having also played for them for 14 years - said he hoped the players had put behind them the epic win over Wasps in the Premiership Final and were ready to repeat the success.
That is a tough task given there have been five different winners of English rugby's premier prize in the last six years.
"I look at it as not the end of a journey," said Baxter, speaking at the English Premiership launch at English rugby's headquarters Twickenham.
"It is difficult to leave behind but I would hope we have learnt lessons from that great moment and we take it forward from there.
"This is not a full stop for us and I would be disappointed if it became our peak."
Baxter, who took over as head coach in 2009 and in his first full season in charge guided Exeter to the top tier, said winning the title could be a boon or a curse depending on how everyone confronted the enormity of being domestic champions.
"You can use the win in the Final as a real positive or it can become a crutch," he said.
"To my mind, we need to show the qualities of champions today and not to look towards the future and anticipate another final.
"Of course, it is right to celebrate the good days but there are only so many pints of Guinness you can drink before it begins to have a bad effect on you.
"I want us to leave the final victory behind so there is no emotional baggage."
Baxter said that the club had not gone out and conducted a massive refreshment of their playing resources as he thought it can be counterproductive.
"The cheque book has been quiet as I think retaining players is more important than recruiting new ones.
"We still feel we are an improving side, though we have signed a couple of new faces," he said.
"However, we have not gone out and searched the world for something or someone that we might not get in any case."
Nick Kennedy, his counterpart at London Irish, who returned to the top tier at the first time of asking, said that lessons had been learnt and the environment at the club was totally transformed.
His goals though remain limited if realistic.
"We finished bottom the year that we went down so our goal is not to do that again, is to be at least one place higher," said the 34-year-old former London Irish, Toulon and England lock.
Baxter had some advice for him based on his experience when the Chiefs joined the elite.
"Try not to get onto an emotional rollercoaster as in getting on a high when you win and then a downer when you lose," he said.
"It is about dealing with victories and defeats in the right way.
"London Irish have to get on a curve, playing a way that sees you improve performance wise week on week regardless of the result.
"That's what we did. There is satisfaction even if you lose so long as you believe the performance has improved."