By Mitch Phillips
LONDON (Reuters) - Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter has been awarded the Rugby Writers' Club Pat Marshall award as the sport's personality of the year after guiding the club to a memorable Premiership and European Cup double last season.
Baxter has been involved with the Devon club for more than 30 years as player, captain and coach, overseeing their rise from the lower leagues to reach the Premiership 10 years ago.
That journey reached its zenith in October with victories over Racing 92 in the Champions Cup final and over Wasps in the Premiership final on successive weekends.
Baxter joins an illustrious list of winners that includes South Africa's World Cup-winning captain Siya Kolisi, who won in 2019, Eddie Jones, Ian McGeechan, Jonny Wilkinson, Sean Fitzpatrick, Dan Carter and Gareth Edwards.
"Looking at some of the names who have been awarded this previously I have to say I feel in exalted company,” Baxter, 49, said when presented the award at a small ceremony at the club's Sandy Park ground on Thursday.
"I don't mind telling you it took my breath away when I was looking at the people who have won this – not just household names but world famous names. It's a huge honour.
"I have to thank everybody at the club who has helped me on the path to the double championship we won last year and who has been a huge part in the success of Exeter. I'm the guy lucky enough pick up a very prestigious award for the hard work of a lot of people."
Baxter topped a poll of the RUWC's 250-plus members encompassing writers, photographers and broadcasters for the award that has been running since 1976 and is named in honour of former Daily Mail and Daily Express rugby writer Pat Marshall, who died in 1975.
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Toby Davis)