5 things behind Exeter’s remarkable rise to the top

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Exeter will contest their first European final on Saturday when they meet French club Racing 92 in a Heineken Champions Cup showdown at Ashton Gate.

It continues the Chiefs’ remarkable journey that saw them attain Premiership status just 10 years ago.

Here, the PA news agency assesses some of the reasons for their success.

Rob Baxter

Exeter Chiefs v Sale Sharks – Gallagher Premiership – Sandy Park
Exeter rugby director Rob Baxter (Simon Galloway/PA)


Exeter Chiefs agree new contracts with 30 players
Exeter’s Sandy Park home (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Tony Rowe

Webb Ellis Cup Tour July 10 day 30
Tony Rowe (right) with former Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie during the 2015 Rugby World Cup trophy tour (Hannah McKay/PA)


Professional sport can sometimes see loyalty go out of the window, but not in Exeter’s case. It is underlined perhaps no better than by 36-year-old Gareth Steenson, who kicked 24 points in Chiefs’ promotion-clinching victory over Bristol in 2010, and almost 300 appearances later is set to be part of the match-day 23 on Champions Cup final day in his final season at Sandy Park. The Exeter squad is littered with long-serving performers, one-club men who are the heartbeat of everything that has been achieved during a relentles drive to the top.

Growing your own

Exeter’s reputation for producing rugby talent is emphasised by their academy production line. Current England internationals Jack Nowell, Henry Slade and Luke Cowan-Dickie are among those to emerge via the Chiefs’ development system, and it has not stopped there, with players like the Simmonds brothers – first team captain Joe and England back-row forward Sam – Jack Maunder and Stu Townsend continuing the trend, while the most recent academy group to gain first XV graduation features Marcus Street, Sam Maunder and Richard Capstick. Star recruits such as Stuart Hogg and Jonny Gray have proved significant arrivals, but those kind of signings are underpinned by the club’s unshakeable playing foundation.

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