LONDON. — Exeter boss Rob Baxter says people do not appreciate the sacrifices his players and their families have made in order to win the Champions Cup and make the Premiership final.
The Chiefs have been relatively free of Covid-19 despite a high infection rate in parts of their home city.
They will play Wasps, who have had 11 positive tests, in Saturday’s Premiership final.
Bristol were on stand-by if Wasps, who beat them in the semi-finals, had been unable to fulfil the fixture.
The decision was taken by the Rugby Football Union, Premiership Rugby and Public Health England officials. This will be Wasps’ first final since 2017, when they were beaten by the Chiefs in extra time.
Seven players and four backroom staff had been diagnosed with coronavirus before further tests were undertaken on Tuesday.
But, in a statement, Wasps confirmed that “no further players or staff have tested positive”, although a coaching staff test was damaged in transit and that member will now self-isolate as a precaution.
They also reiterated the need to maintain their “rigorous” protocols around track and trace as the players return to training for the game.
“I would like to place on record my sincere thanks to Premiership Rugby, the RFU, Public Health England and Public Health Warwickshire for their clarity and assistance throughout this whole process,” Wasps group chief executive Stephen Vaughan said.
“As a club, we are delighted that we can now take our rightful place in this Saturday’s Premiership Rugby final.
“To all of our fans and well-wishers, thank you for your many messages of support, this final is for you.”
Baxter said his players, who include Zimbabwe-born star, Dave Ewers, said and their families have been professional.
“What you need to remember it goes beyond the lads not going out for a beer in town,” Baxter said.
“Especially around this stage of the season, what you have to ask your wife or your partner to do or your parents to do.
“Asking your wife to go to a different shop, and how the children go to school and how you bring them back, the sacrifices are way more than people really understand.
“The players don’t just have to be careful when they’re here in the club, the time they really have to lockdown and really be focused is away from here, that’s a big commitment that they’ve made.”
Exeter beat Racing 92 last Saturday to win their first-ever European Champions Cup title.
“They’ve just won the biggest game of their lives at club level playing for Exeter on Saturday and they’ve all gone through a testing process and come through it negative,” said Baxter.
“That’s a massive pat on their backs as to how they’ve conducted themselves not just all season, but in particular since winning a huge game of rugby.
“It’s a reward beyond just the standard rugby reward of winning trophies this year, it’s a reward for that little bit of extra commitment and that little bit of extra sacrifice that it’s taken at this time of the year.” — BBC Sport.