Rob Baxter urges Premiership to match Leinster pulling power after Barrett coup

By Sports Desk April 17, 2024

Exeter boss Rob Baxter insists the Gallagher Premiership should aim to match Leinster’s ambition by developing their own ‘Fortnum and Mason’ recruitment policy.

The Irish province have pulled off a major coup by signing New Zealand’s brilliant centre Jordie Barrett while in the prime of his career as he has agreed a short-term deal for next season.

Baxter believes the 27-year-old’s sabbatical is valuable for European rugby and wants the English top flight to also become an appealing destination for overseas stars.

“It makes you a bit jealous that you’re not working in Leinster’s recruitment department!” Baxter said.

“I know (former Saracens, Sale and Worcester director of rugby) Steve Diamond once said it depends what shop you go shopping in: is it Waitrose or is it Aldi?”

Referencing an upmarket London department store, Baxter continued: “It might be Fortnum and Mason depending on how you want to look at it!

“If Irish rugby, Leinster and the United Rugby Championship can get their house in order to allow them to invest in players, their programme and their coaches like they do, you have to say fair play.

“My response would be, ‘let’s not try to say it’s not fair and limit Leinster, let’s look to ways we can get to that level of competition with them’.

“You can look around and say, ‘let’s stop everyone else doing it because we can’t do it’. Or you go, ‘what are they doing to develop that level of interest and finance and why can’t we do it?’.

“I don’t think it’s bad for these competitions to have world-class players. What we want to find out is ways that we can do it as well.

“You have to work to make the competition look attractive and the way the game is played look attractive.

“To get that deal in place to sign a player you have to get a lot of financial bits and pieces right – and that runs right from the top of the game to the bottom in the country.

“There’s a lot we have to do to get to that level, but why shouldn’t we be aiming for it? That’s what we should be trying to do.”

The Premiership has defied its critics by supplying two teams to the Investec Champions Cup semi-finals in Northampton and Harlequins, with Leinster and Toulouse completing the line-up.

Baxter believes that has been managed even though the league has temporarily been reduced to a “developing competition” due to the financial implications of the pandemic and lack of funds in the English game.

“Two sides in the semi-finals is obviously fantastic. We want to expose the Premiership to as many new viewers as we can, for obvious reasons. Whether we make it a regular occurrence, that’s the challenge,” the director of rugby said.

“The Premiership is expected to be a developing competition again. We’ve had to do a lot of things around Covid and the financial situation in the country.

“We’ve had to make some adjustments but we will hope as a competition that we will regrow ourselves over the coming period as well.”

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