Premiership Rugby Cup: Exeter Chiefs and Cornish Pirates ready to resurrect derby

"This is a real old school local derby from 14 or 15 years ago, so it's going to be a very good occasion," says Exeter boss Rob Baxter with one of the club's biggest rivalries set to be reignited.

Exeter will host Cornish Pirates in a competitive game for the first time since 2009 when the two South West rivals meet in the Premiership Rugby Cup on Saturday.

Since then Exeter have gone on to win the Premiership twice and were crowned champions of Europe in 2020, while the Pirates have yet to succeed in their goal of reaching the top flight.

"Those big local derbies are some of your best memories as a player and weirdly some of your worst," added Baxter to BBC Sport.

A veteran of games between Exeter and their Penzance-based rivals as both a coach and player, Saturday's game rekindles all of those memories and feelings of years gone by.

"We had some good performances down there and were able to walk in the bar and hold your head up high and have a beer and it was great, both as a player and as a coach," Baxter said.

"But we also had times with Cornish Pirates coming to us and they did the same to us and they could walk into our clubhouse and do the same.

"Quite a lot of players from both sides who were playing then have stayed fairly local, and you do bump into each other over a period of time quite regularly."

Since Exeter's promotion in 2010, games between the sides have been limited to almost-annual pre-season games.

Pirates won the last meeting before the start of last season 42-14, although only a handful of those taking the field for the Chiefs that day had significant first-team experience at the time or since.

"The guys are super keen to test themselves against the best players," said Pirates joint-head coach Alan Paver.

Gavin Cattle lifts the National Trophy in 2007
Current Pirates joint-head coach Gavin Cattle captained the club when they beat Exeter to win the 2007 National Trophy final at Twickenham

A stalwart of the club for more than two decades, the former prop was along with fellow head coach Gavin cattle, part of the Pirates side that beat Exeter at Twickenham in 2007 to win the National Trophy - one of the Cornish club's finest hours.

Paver also had a cameo for Exeter when they were in their early Premiership days, joining on a short-term deal after an injury crisis up front and playing once against Saracens in October 2011.

His side ran a youthful Bath squad close in the opening round of the cup last week - the first time second-tier sides had faced Premiership teams competitively for 18 years - but is realistic about chances against an Exeter team that scored 11 tries to thrash Bristol on Saturday.

"We've got to manage our own expectations around what we want to get out of the game," Paver told BBC Radio Cornwall.

"For us, we just want to make sure that we are physically able and ready and we make a good account of ourselves because that's important psychologically for us and also it's important we come away understanding a little bit more about our squad."

But Paver, like Baxter, is an enthusiast for the new competition at a time when the Championship has been seen as the poor relation to it's top-flight cousin.

"It's given us a bit of freshness around the cup competition," he added.

"Traditionally we had the British and Irish Cup which was quite interesting, then we had the Covid period when it was very much reduced, and you do get tired of playing the same teams in your own competition, so for us to have this inter-competition cup is fantastic.

"Also playing Premiership quality, going to new venues, does add a little bit more to the cup matches."

'It's a great relationship'

The two clubs also share players - a host of Exeter youngsters are dual-registered at Pirates and a number of them are likely to line up against their paymasters.

It is a system which, with the financial limitations on Championship sides and the demise of the Premiership 'A League, has suited both teams.

"I don't think we've ever had a player who's gone down there on loan and hasn't come back as an improved player," said Baxter.

"That gives them a great deal of credit, it's a great relationship.

"I know I've said in my programme notes there's still a fierce fire burning down there that one day they want to be a Premiership club, that's fantastic, we want to have lots of clubs with lots of ambition.

"That's what keeps the professional game strong is clubs with ambition and who want to succeed and want to get to the top level.

"If this cup competition helps in any way bridge that gap it can only be a good thing."