Premiership Preview: Exeter Chiefs
Last Season: 5th
Top Tryscorer: Thomas Waldrom (16)
Top Pointscorer: Gareth Steenson (198)
Despite agonisingly missing out on a top four place late year, after finishing the season level on points with both third-placed Leicester Tigers and eventual Champions, Saracens, the 2014/15 campaign can be viewed as a success by the Chiefs.
A club in constant pursuit of improvement, Rob Baxter’s men are the last promoted side to establish themselves as a force in the top tier. After promotion in 2009 ensured they would be dining at Rugby’s top table for the first time in their 140-year history, they have enjoyed a steady if unspectacular start to life in the Premiership, finishing between eighth and fifth in their five years in the division so far.
But last year was the first real time they offered a sustained challenge on the play-off places.
Although untimely missing out, Exeter fans have every reason to be optimistic for the year ahead. With a squad packed with burgeoning talent and Champions League Rugby to look forward to, the Chiefs could well be challenging for honours this season.
The Coach: Rob Baxter
Baxter is nothing short of a club legend at the Chiefs; after serving the club as a player for 14 years, including 10 as captain, he led his side to promotion in his first year as Head Coach. The 44-year-old encourages a rugged and effective style which has produced results. But now, with some impressive recruitment behind him, including a former Super League champion in Josh Jones, this could be the year they finally break into the top four under his loyal guidance.
Key Player: Thomas Waldrom
In a side which exudes team effort, Waldrom arguably epitomises that spirit. ‘Thomas the Tank’ as he is affectionately known, ripped and tore his way to 16 tries last season, topping the division’s tryscoring charts in the process. The Number 8 has become an undoubted fans’ favourite at Sandy Park and will be keen to impress as his Chiefs contract runs towards its’ end.
Prediction: 4th, Premiership semi-finalists.
On the back of several years in the Premiership, Exeter are well-set for another assault on the top four. With more quality additions on board, a memorable year could be in store for the Devon outfit, but they will need good fortune on their side if they are to head for a genuine title challenge. Odds for Title: 18/1.