Stadium: Sandy Park
Beaten to 4th place by Saracens by points difference on the last day – a cruel way to end what had been a fantastic season for Exeter. They recorded back-to-back wins over Northampton Saints – and finally managed to beat Bath in the league – the only team they hadn’t beaten since arriving in the Premiership. They also lost in the European Challenge Cup semi-final to eventual winners Gloucester – and also lost to Saracens in the LV= Cup Final.
Back in the Heineken Cup, and making some more notable signings – in my opinion their best to date – the Chiefs will be looking to push on further, and to grab a play-off place. An advantage the Chiefs will have over some of their rivals – is that they’ll only lose a few of their star players to international duty for the World Cup – giving them the chance to capitalise on their weakened opponents. Their European Cup group consists of Bordeaux, Clermont and Ospreys. With Clermont favourites for winning the group – the Chiefs will most likely be looking at taking a best runners up spot – and hoping to progress to the ¼ finals for the first time in Europe’s elite competition.
I’m predicting a 7th place finish for the Chiefs. I think they’ve made smart moves in terms of recruitment, and they have a good youth set-up, with the core of the players who have been grabbing the headlines for the Chiefs still in their early 20s. They play an exciting brand of rugby with the right players to pull it off. However losing their captain, Dean Mumm will be a significant blow for the Chiefs. He has been one a huge player for them, and whilst they’ve brought in Parling to replace him, his injury record shows he may not feature for the whole season. That alongside the commitments of the European Champions Cup, and I am predicting a number of Exeter’s players to be called up for next years 6 Nations squad, is something they haven’t had to deal with before, and I think they’ll struggle without the likes of Slade, Cowan-Dickie and Ewers being absent – if they’re picked for England.
- Young Squad – a majority of their star players are still in their early 20s, with a number of them on the fringes of the England squad – bodes well for the future.
- Fly Half – with both Steenson and Slade more than capable of performing at a high level – this is one of the Chief’s main strengths.
- Backrow – with the addition of Salvi to an already strong backrow of Waldrom and Ewers, the Chiefs have a backrow to compete with the best of them, and with Waldrom and Salvi being unlikely to be picked internationally – will hope to provide Exeter with some stability throughout the season
- Strength in depth – If a number of their players get called up for international duty – makes the Exeter team look a lot weaker, and may struggle against some of the bigger teams, especially if they want to be competing at the top of the table.
- Captain Mumm departing – Not only was he a standout player – but a fantastic leader for the Chiefs. Parling being the obvious replacement in both position and leadership ability and experience – but filling Dean Mumm’s shoes will be tough, and the Chiefs will be hoping that Parling can step up to the task.
CHOO CHOO. Thomas “The Tank Engine” Waldrom was the top try scorer in the Premiership last season and voted the Chiefs supporters player of the year. They’ll be hoping that he continues his on from his fantastic last season, and to show England what they’re missing out on. Also a member of the Cookie Club.
At flyhalf Slade had been solid for both England U20s and Exeter in recent years; which speaks volumes at the young age of 22 – but his move to the centre last season seems to have shifted his performances into another gear. A massive threat with ball in hand and has given him the freedom to showcase his ability.
The 23 year old tighthead earned a lot of plaudits from pundits for his performances towards the end of last season. His fine form has also lead to him being included in the Wales World Cup training squad. There has been reported interest from Cardiff for the player, and Exeter will be hoping they can hold onto him for years to come. Sadly an ex-member of the Cookie Club, for violating rules.
|Alec Hepburn||Prop||Perth Spirit|
|Geoff Parling||Lock||Leicester Tigers|
|Will Hooley||Fly Half||Northampton|
|Julian Salvi||Flanker||Leicester Tigers|
|Josh Jones||Centre / Wing||St Helens (RL)|
|Tom James||Wing||Cardiff Blues|
|Greg Bateman||Hooker||Leicester Tigers|
|Dean Mumm||Lock||NSW Waratahs|
|Ceri Sweeney||Fly Half||Pontypridd|
|Ryan Caldwell||Lock||End of Contract|
|Will Carrick-Smith||Lock||End of Contract|
This season will be about solidifying their place at the top half of the table. They have the players to challenge for a playoff spot – but whether or not their squad depth will manage, especially compared to some of their rivals around them will be the biggest question.
A top half finish should be the aim, and getting out of their European group would be seen as another huge step for Exeter and their rapid rise to success.
What are Chief’s fans views – do they agree or disagree with any of my points? Who do you think are their star players? Who are the players to watch out for this season? Where do you think they’ll finish?