Rob Baxter full of praise for Gareth Steenson’s commitment to Exeter
Exeter Chiefs head coach delighted with the form of his outside-half in steering the Devon club to the Premiership top four
Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter has praised the commitment of outside-half Gareth Steenson.
The 30-year-old has signed a new three-year deal with the Devon club, who are riding high in the Aviva Premiership after an outstanding start to the season after nine rounds.
Baxter, who also signed a new deal this week to remain at Sandy Park until 2018, believes elite level rugby and Steenson’s professionalism have helped drive the club forward.
“There’s no magic ingredient,” Baxter said.
“Steeno has improved over a period because he’s gained more and more experience in the Premiership and in Europe and those experiences are vital in creating a top-quality player.
“Aligned to that, he’s worked extremely hard. As [backs coach] Ali [Hepher] said after the Saracens game when he was talking about his kicking, he goes out, practises and puts the time in. He’s meticulous with it.
“He and we have reaped the rewards from that. It makes him a very important member of the team and it’s helped us massively in our time in the Premiership.”
He provides a real direction and leadership in what we do in attack.
Steenson has played all but 19 minutes in the opening nine rounds of this season’s Premiership campaign, landing 131 points off the tee to send him to the top of the league’s scoring charts, 24 points ahead of Saracens’ Charlie Hodgson.
But Baxter insists there is more to the Northern Ireland-born outside-half’s game than just his kicking abilities, which have seen him secure second place in the Chiefs’ all-time leading points scorer in his six seasons with the club.
“On top of his kicking there are elements of his game that are improving all the time,” he added. “He’s had to make himself go out and do that.
“His defence this year has been the big marker for me that’s noticeably improved.
“We don’t hide him on the wing — we don’t shield him at all — he stands there in the 10 channel and takes whatever’s coming and done it very well.
“He provides a real direction and leadership in what we do in attack.
“Some of his play attacking the line and where he makes his passes and the way he comes onto the ball are things Ali has worked very hard on with him and he’s taking it all on board.”
Steenson has the responsibility of orchestrating a European Challenge Cup win against La Rochelle in France tonight, and Baxter hopes that the former Rotherham and Cornish Pirates man will continue to improve now his future is settled.
“At the moment he’s bang on form and what we’re hoping and expecting from him is that by signing a long-term commitment to the club we see that level of improvement continuing in the future,” Baxter added.
“Your fly-halves are like the quarterbacks in an American football team — they’re the players the success and failure of your club can rely upon.”