Rob Baxter insists Aviva Premiership champions Exeter will keep celebrating big triumphs with a few beers, despite rugby running into several recent high-profile drink-related problems.
Rugby director Baxter admitted Exeter’s players toasted their maiden Premiership win in June with a few days’ drinking — but the Chiefs boss continues to champion the importance of celebrating success.
Leicester’s Manu Tuilagi and Sale’s Denny Solomona were sent home early from England’s pre-season training camp earlier this month, with the duo understood to have breached protocol by going out drinking.
Harlequins prop Kyle Sinckler was arrested and then released without charge by Auckland police at the end of the British and Irish Lions tour in New Zealand.
But Exeter boss Baxter believes alcohol bans would prove counter-productive in the sport.
“You’ve got to let guys celebrate together,” Baxter told PA Sport.
“What often gets you through is when you work hard for each other and when it means something.
“Letting them develop a bond as a team is very important.
“You can’t have it [drinking] inhibiting where you want to go as a club, and you can’t have it offending anybody.
“But if you give them an opportunity to be trusted and act like men is often the way to get performances like men.
“We like to create an environment where they are given the opportunity to act like men and to perform like men.
“I don’t know the full story of what happened with the two England players, but if the rumours are to be believed that they went out late before the main training day, it’s pretty clear that’s going to be pretty inhibiting.
“In any culture you can’t allow that to happen, that’s pretty different from having a beer on a Saturday night after a match. One thing doesn’t mean the other is acceptable.
Exeter Chiefs’ Jack Yeandle, left, and Gareth Steenson lift the Aviva Premiership trophy. Dan Mullan/Getty Images
“The more often you can do it the more often you can get the right buy-in.
“If you ban it completely that’s when you start to get the little fireworks of things happening at the wrong time, doing it inappropriately, or it being driven underground.
“You don’t need to have a midweek drink because you can go out on a Saturday night.”
Exeter edged out Wasps 23-20 after extra time to inch to their maiden Premiership title in May, with their players then indulging in several days jubilant celebrations.
Baxter insisted it was fully apt for his players to let their hair down at the end of a gruelling but successful campaign — but has now challenged his men to put last term to bed.
“Now we’ve got to make sure that last season is not the end of a journey,” said Baxter.
“We’ve got to leave it behind, even though that’s hard to do.
“The most disappointing thing would be if it became a peak that we never reached again.
“For the players, the celebrating went on quite a long time, and it should have done.
“You’ve got to celebrate the good times when they’re there.
“I’d hate for the likes of Gareth Steenson to finish his career and think ‘oh I won the Premiership once, and I didn’t really enjoy it, I didn’t make the most of it’.
“You can use winning a final as a positive, or let it become a bit of a crutch.
“The champion club of England should turn up and perform in a certain way, today, in training.
“We’ve got to make sure it doesn’t become any emotional baggage.”
www.espn.co.uk – RUGBY