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Rob Baxter claims he is 'sad' and 'frustrated' to see Exeter stars like Jack Nowell leave for France

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Rob Baxter claims he is 'sad' and 'frustrated' to see Exeter stars like Jack Nowell leave for France

Exeter’s director of rugby Rob Baxter says he is ‘sad’ and ‘disappointed’ to see homegrown players like Jack Nowell leave England for France… but says there is ‘excitement to rebuild of the club

  • Rob Baxter says he is ‘sad’ that many of his players are being lured away
  • Jack Nowell was the latest to leave Exeter and go to France for big money
  • Luke Cowan-Dickie and Sam Simmonds have also agreed to move to Montpellier
  • Baxter said English clubs were struggling to compete because of the salary cap

Exeter’s director of rugby Rob Baxter has mixed emotions as he is forced to undertake a rebuild at Sandy Park following his countrymen’s exit from England.

Baxter led the Chiefs up the English rugby pyramid to win two Premiership titles and a Champions Cup, but this season feels like the end of an era.

Exeter’s England and Lions pair Luke Cowan-Dickie and Sam Simmonds have both agreed to join French giants Montpellier for next season.

Exeter's director of rugby Rob Baxter says he is 'sad' players have left the club for France

Exeter’s director of rugby Rob Baxter says he is ‘sad’ players have left the club for France

Jack Nowell is the latest player to announce he will be moving overseas to play in the Top 14

Jack Nowell is the latest player to announce he will be moving overseas to play in the Top 14

Baxter admitted this week that he is preparing for life without another of his English Lions in Jack Nowell, whose wing is also expected to move abroad.

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Exeter host Northampton now know they need to start winning if they are to avoid what would be a second successive season of mid-table mediocrity.

‘It’s sad and disappointing when you see players leave who have been so important and fundamental here. There’s an emotional part to it,’ Baxter said.

‘You want to keep people together who have succeeded and worked hard for the club. You don’t want to see them go, but at the same time that’s life. There is excitement in rebuilding the squad and looking around.’

Luke Cowan-Dickie will also leave Exeter for Montpellier at the end of the season

Luke Cowan-Dickie will also leave Exeter for Montpellier at the end of the season

England No 8 Sam Simmonds will join Cowan-Dickie in the south of France next season

England No 8 Sam Simmonds will join Cowan-Dickie in the south of France next season

All 11 Premiership clubs operate within the league’s tightened salary cap of £5million — the amount of money each team can spend on their squad each year.

Cowan-Dickie and Simmonds accepted large financial offers abroad, despite knowing that doing so would end their careers in England. Nowell is expected to be next.

‘If you look at where we are in the Champions Cup and the Premiership Cup, we have a lot to fight for across the board and we will do that,’ Baxter said ahead of the Northampton game.

‘But at the same time, when you know you have players that we’re leaving and there are questions about the salary cap and what we can offer, you have to go through an element of rebuilding.

They host Northampton on Saturday and must win to bring themselves into play-off contention

They host Northampton on Saturday and must win to bring themselves into play-off contention

‘You have to do that every year. Sometimes you do it more successfully than others. It is an ongoing process. You can do as much rebuilding as you want, but you want to do it from a platform with good fundamentals.

That will see us through the good times and the bad times as a rugby club. Hard times are always around, you just want to put them away as long as you can.

‘Our battle today is to have a good streak. If we do, we will be beautiful. If we have a bad streak, it will look a little sad. We are there at this stage of the season.’

Exeter were humbled by Saracens last weekend but Cowan-Dickie and Simmonds are back to face a high-flying Northampton side after they dismantled Harlequins.

Phil Dowson’s Saints have George Furbank at fly-half but the promising Fin Smith was ruled out after picking up a head injury against Quins and England’s Courtney Lawes is still out with a glute injury.

Northampton have tasted success in their last two visits to Sandy Park but a hat-trick could overtake them as they have won just once on their Premiership trips since April.