Exeter Chiefs

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Exeter Rugby
Exeter Chiefs logo.svg
Full nameExeter Rugby Club
UnionDevon RFU
Founded1871; 150 years ago (1871)
LocationExeter, Devon, England
Ground(s)Sandy Park (Capacity: 13,593)
ChairmanTony Rowe OBE
CEOTony Rowe OBE
Director of RugbyRob Baxter OBE
Captain(s)Jack Yeandle
Joe Simmonds MBE
Most capsBen Moon (197)
Top scorerGareth Steenson (1,651)
Most triesSam Simmonds (52)
League(s)Premiership Rugby
2020–212nd (Runners-up)
1st kit
2nd kit
Official website

Exeter Chiefs (officially Exeter Rugby Club) is an English professional rugby union club based in Exeter, Devon.[1] They play in Premiership Rugby, England's top division of rugby.

The club was founded in 1871 and since 2006 has played its home matches at Sandy Park, a purpose built facility on the outskirts of the city. They have been known by the name Chiefs since 1999. The club was promoted to the Premiership for the first time in 2010. Since promotion, the Chiefs have become one of the leading clubs in the Premiership, winning the championship title twice, in 2016–17 and 2019–20 respectively, and reaching a further four finals. In October 2020, the Chiefs won the Champions Cup, the top prize in European club rugby union, for the first time, defeating French club Racing 92 in the final of a tournament that was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Exeter are the only club to win the top four tiers of English rugby, winning the Premiership in 2017 and 2020, RFU Championship in 2010, National League 1 in 1997 and National League 2 South in 1996. They have won the Anglo-Welsh Cup twice, most recently in 2018, and the European Rugby Champions Cup once, in 2020.

The current director of rugby is Rob Baxter, who was appointed in March 2009.


Early years[edit]

Exeter Rugby Club was founded in 1871. The club played its first match in 1873 against St. Luke's College. In 1890, they won the Devon Cup.[2] In 1905, Exeter Rugby Club hosted the first match played by the New Zealand national rugby union team on English soil and in the Northern Hemisphere at the County Ground between New Zealand and the Devon County XV.[3] It was from that game that New Zealand became known as the "All Blacks".[4]

When league rugby started, Exeter were initially placed in the Devon leagues.

Early league and professional era[edit]

In 1993 and 1995, Exeter reached the quarter finals of the Pilkington Cup before being knocked out by top division opponents Leicester Tigers and London Wasps respectively.[2]

In 1997, Exeter were promoted into the Premiership Two for the first time from National League 1. They regularly finished in the top half of the table. In 2005, Exeter finished second in the league, missing out on promotion by four points behind Bristol Rugby. The next season, they moved from the County Ground to Sandy Park due to a need for modern facilities that included corporate hospitality.[5] In 2008 they again finished in second place and again missed out on promotion by finishing behind Northampton Saints. The same situation happened the next season when Exeter finished behind Leeds Carnegie.


In 2009, National Division One was reorganised into the RFU Championship with playoffs. During the regular league season, Exeter finished second behind Bristol. In the playoffs, they defeated Bedford Blues and Nottingham R.F.C. before facing Bristol in the two legged final.[6] Exeter won 9–6 in the first leg at Sandy Park and then won 29–10 at Bristol's Memorial Stadium in the second leg to win promotion to the Premiership for the first time.[7]

In their first season in the Premiership, they finished eighth[8] despite a two-point deduction and a £5,000 fine for fielding too many overseas players during their match against Leeds Carnegie at Headingley Stadium.[9] They also made their debut in the European Challenge Cup, making their way to the quarter finals where they lost to Stade Français.[10] In the next season, they finished fifth in the Premiership which permitted them to play in the Heineken Cup for the first time.[9] In their first season in the Heineken Cup, they were drawn against French Clermont Auvergne, Irish Leinster Rugby and Welsh Scarlets in the group stage. They finished the group third with nine points ahead of Scarlets.[11] In 2014, Exeter Chiefs won their first major rugby trophy after they defeated Northampton Saints in the Anglo-Welsh Cup 15–8 at Sandy Park.[12]

Recent seasons[edit]

In the 2015–16 season the Chiefs finished in second place in Premiership Rugby[13] entitling them to a home semi final in the Aviva Premiership which was played against Wasps. They won the match 34-23[14] thanks to two penalty tries, a try from Ian Whitten and a try from Dave Ewers as well as two penalties and four conversions from Gareth Steenson. This meant the Chiefs qualified to their first Aviva Premiership final on 28 May. They lost 28–20 to champions Saracens despite tries from England international Jack Nowell and club captain Jack Yeandle as well as 2 penalties and 2 conversions from Gareth Steenson.[15]

The Chiefs also reached the quarter-final of the European Champions Cup in 2015–16. They were drawn away to Wasps in a tight game which they eventually lost 25–24 in the Ricoh Arena after Wasps' Jimmy Gopperth kicked a last-minute conversion.[16]

In 2016–17, the Chiefs won the Premiership for the first time in their history by beating Wasps in the final 23–20. The game finished 20–20 at full time with captain Gareth Steenson slotting a late penalty to take it to extra time. In extra time, Steenson added another penalty to secure the victory.[17]

The Chiefs finished the 2017–18 season eight points clear at the top of the Premiership Rugby table, but ultimately lost to 27–10 to Saracens in the final on 26 May 2018.[18]

The Chiefs saw their most success to date during the 2019–20 season, winning an historic double of the European Rugby Champions Cup, in their first appearance in the final, and the Premiership.[19]


Exeter play their home games at Sandy Park, which is located on the outskirts of the city. The club moved from their previous home, the County Ground, in 2006 having played there regularly since 1905.[20] In 2002, Exeter Chiefs started looking for a new stadium because they felt the County Ground provided insufficient opportunities for growth. Despite concerns and opposition from traditionalists within the club, the motion to move was passed by 99% of the attendees at Exeter's annual general meeting.[2] Sandy Park can accommodate 12,800 spectators, however, there are plans to increase this capacity to 20,600 with phase one having begun in early 2014.[21] These plans came about because of a requirement for later stages of European matches to be played at grounds with a capacity of at least 20,000.[22]

Current kit[edit]

The kit is supplied by Samurai Rugby Gear. On the front of the shirt, SW Comms appear on the centre and the top left and Watson is on the top right. M.J Baker Foods is on the right sleeve. On the back of the shirt, Centrax is on the top while Sandy Park is on top of the squad number and Bradfords Building supplies at the bottom. On the shorts, SW Comms (which also appear on the centre and the top left on the front of the shirt) is on the bottom left of the front shorts while on the back shorts, Frobishers Juice is at the top while Otter Brewery is on the bottom left.

Branding issue[edit]

In 1999, Exeter Rugby Club turned semi-professional and changed their name to Exeter Chiefs,[8] after previously being referred to as the Chiefs in the 1930s.[23] In 2016, the club's fans were called upon to change their behaviour over concerns that it could be considered an offensive appropriation of Native American culture.[24] News outlets such as the BBC reported that the club had been urged to change its name and to stop playing "Indian."[citation needed] Teams in the United States, like the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians have been urged to do the same, and cease use of stereotypes like the "tomahawk chop" chant and use of war paint.[25]

In July 2020, a group set up by Exeter Chiefs supporters called for the club's "racist use of Native American imagery and branding" to be dropped, comparing the use of the headdresses and chanting the Tomahawk Chop to blackface. A petition gained more than 550 signatures in a week, with Exeter's Labour MP, Ben Bradshaw, also publicly backing the move.[26] By Wednesday 8 July the petition had grown to 2,000 signatures and the debate about whether a re-brand was needed gained widespread attention.[27][28][29] By 29 July the petition had gained 3,700 signatures and the issue was considered by the Exeter Board of Directors, they decided their branding was "highly respectful" but nonetheless retired their mascot Big Chief which "could be regarded as disrespectful". This decision was called "tone deaf" by the petitioners and considered controversial in the wider press.[30][31]

Season summaries[edit]

Premiership Domestic Cup European Cup
Season Competition Final Position Points Play-Offs Competition Performance Competition Performance
1987–88 Courage League Division 3 9th 8 N/A John Player Cup N/A No competition N/A
1988–89 Courage League Division 3 9th 8 N/A Pilkington Cup 3rd round No competition N/A
1989–90 Courage League Division 3 6th 11 N/A Pilkington Cup 4th round No competition N/A
1990–91 Courage League Division 3 4th 16 N/A Pilkington Cup 3rd round No competition N/A
1991–92 Courage League Division 3 4th 18 N/A Pilkington Cup 2nd round No competition N/A
1992–93 Courage League Division 3 3rd 17 N/A Pilkington Cup Quarter-final No competition N/A
1993–94 Courage League Division 3 6th 19 N/A Pilkington Cup 2nd round No competition N/A
1994–95 Courage League Division 3 10th (R) 7 N/A Pilkington Cup Quarter-final No competition N/A
1995–96 Courage League Division 4 1st (P) 28 N/A Pilkington Cup 4th round No English teams N/A
1996–97 Courage League Division 3 1st (P) 50 N/A Pilkington Cup 3rd round Not qualified N/A
1997–98 Allied Dunbar Premiership 2 11th 12 N/A Tetley's Bitter Cup 4th round Not qualified N/A
C&G Cup 4th in pool
1998–99 Allied Dunbar Premiership 2 5th 29 N/A Tetley's Bitter Cup 5th round No English teams N/A
C&G Cup 2nd round
1999–00 Allied Dunbar Premiership 2 4th 38 N/A Tetley's Bitter Cup 4th round Not qualified N/A
2000–01 National Division 1 3rd 71 N/A Tetley's Bitter Cup 4th round Not qualified N/A
2001–02 National Division 1 3rd 92 N/A Powergen Cup 6th round Not qualified N/A
Powergen Shield Runners-up
2002–03 National Division 1 3rd 104 N/A Powergen Cup 6th round Not qualified N/A
Powergen Shield Runners-up
2003–04 National Division 1 6th 74 N/A Powergen Cup 4th round Not qualified N/A
2004–05 National Division 1 2nd 101 N/A Powergen Cup 5th round Not qualified N/A
2005–06 National Division 1 6th 71 N/A EDF Energy Trophy Semi-final Not qualified N/A
2006–07 National Division 1 4th 101 N/A EDF Energy Trophy Runners-up Not qualified N/A
2007–08 National Division 1 2nd 116 N/A EDF Energy Trophy Runners-up Not qualified N/A
2008–09 National Division 1 2nd 119 N/A EDF Energy Trophy Semi-final Not qualified N/A
2009–10 RFU Championship 2nd (P) 88 Champions British and Irish Cup 4th in pool Not qualified N/A
2010–11 Aviva Premiership 8th 43 - LV= Cup 4th in pool Challenge Cup 2nd in pool
2011–12 Aviva Premiership 5th 59 - LV= Cup 2nd in pool Challenge Cup Quarter-final
2012–13 Aviva Premiership 6th 59 - LV= Cup 2nd in pool Heineken Cup 3rd in pool
2013–14 Aviva Premiership 8th 45 - LV= Cup Champions Heineken Cup 3rd in pool
2014–15 Aviva Premiership 5th 68 - LV= Cup Runners-up Challenge Cup Semi-final
2015–16 Aviva Premiership 2nd 74 Runners-up No competition N/A Champions Cup Quarter-final
2016–17 Aviva Premiership 2nd 84 Champions Anglo-Welsh Cup Runners-up Champions Cup 3rd in pool
2017–18 Aviva Premiership 1st 85 Runners-up Anglo-Welsh Cup Champions Champions Cup 2nd in pool
2018–19 Gallagher Premiership 1st 86 Runners-up Premiership Cup 2nd in pool Champions Cup 2nd in pool
2019–20 Gallagher Premiership 1st 74 Champions Premiership Cup Semi-final Champions Cup Champions
2020–21 Gallagher Premiership 2nd 82 Runners-up Premiership Cup no competition Champions Cup Quarter-finals

Gold background denotes champions
Silver background denotes runners-up
Pink background denotes relegated

Club honours[edit]

Exeter Chiefs[edit]

Exeter Braves[edit]

Current squad[edit]

The Exeter Chiefs squad for the 2021–22 season is:[32][a][b]

Note: Flags indicate national union as has been defined under WR eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-WR nationality.

Player Position Union
Ollie Burrows Hooker Wales Wales
Luke Cowan-Dickie Hooker England England
Harry Hocking Hooker England England
Jack Innard Hooker England England
Max Norey Hooker England England
Jordon Poole Hooker England England
Jack Yeandle (cc) Hooker England England
Alec Hepburn Prop England England
Josh Iosefa-Scott Prop New Zealand New Zealand
Matt Johnson Prop England England
Billy Keast Prop England England
James Kenny Prop England England
Ben Moon Prop England England
Sam Nixon Prop England England
Alfie Petch Prop England England
Patrick Schickerling Prop Namibia Namibia
Danny Southworth Prop England England
Marcus Street Prop England England
Harry Williams Prop England England
Jonny Gray Lock Scotland Scotland
Jonny Hill Lock England England
Daffyd Jenkins Lock Wales Wales
Jannes Kirsten Lock South Africa South Africa
Sean Lonsdale Lock England England
Ryan McCauley [b] Lock Australia Australia
Lewis Pearson Lock England England
Sam Skinner Lock Scotland Scotland
Cory Teague Lock England England
Christ Tshiunza Lock Wales Wales
Will Witty Lock England England
Don Armand Back row England England
Richard Capstick Back row England England
Dave Ewers Back row Zimbabwe Zimbabwe
Ben Grubb Back row England England
Aaron Hinkley Back row England England
Sam Simmonds Back row England England
Rus Tuima Back row England England
Jacques Vermeulen Back row South Africa South Africa
Player Position Union
Tom Cairns Scrum-half England England
Sam Hidalgo-Clyne Scrum-half Scotland Scotland
Jack Maunder Scrum-half England England
Sam Maunder Scrum-half England England
Stu Townsend Scrum-half England England
Iwan Jenkins Fly-half Wales Wales
Joe Simmonds (cc) Fly-half England England
Harvey Skinner Fly-half England England
Jack Walsh Fly-half Australia Australia
Ollie Devoto Centre England England
Kian Gentry Centre England England
Tom Hendrickson Centre New Zealand New Zealand
Archie Hill Centre England England
Charlie McCaig Centre England England
Seán O'Brien Centre Ireland Ireland
Henry Slade Centre England England
Ian Whitten Centre Ireland Ireland
Tom Wyatt Centre England England
Facundo Cordero Wing Argentina Argentina
Shea Cornish Wing England England
Dan John Wing Wales Wales
Frankie Nowell Wing England England
Jack Nowell Wing England England
Tom O'Flaherty Wing England England
Arthur Relton Wing England England
Olly Woodburn Wing England England
Ben Hammersley Fullback England England
Josh Hodge Fullback England England
Stuart Hogg Fullback Scotland Scotland

Club staff[edit]

First Team Coaching[34]

Role Name
Director of Rugby England Rob Baxter
Team manager New Zealand Tony Walker
Head coach England Ali Hepher
Forwards coach England Rob Hunter
Defence coach Australia Julian Salvi
Skills coach England Ricky Pellow


Role Name
Academy manager England Rob Gibson
Senior academy coach England Haydn Thomas

Notable former players[edit]

Lions tourists[edit]

The following players have toured with the Lions while playing for Exeter:

Rugby World Cup[edit]

The following are players which have represented their countries at the Rugby World Cup, whilst playing for Exeter:

Tournament Players selected England players Other national team players
2003 3 - Richard Liddington United States, Siaosi Vaili, Opeta Palepoi Samoa
2011 3 - Gonzalo Camacho Argentina, Junior Poluleuligaga Samoa, Craig Mitchell Wales
2015 7 Geoff Parling, Jack Nowell, Henry Slade Tomas Francis Wales, Chrysander Botha Namibia, Elvis Taione Tonga, Michele Campagnaro Italy
2019 6 Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jack Nowell, Henry Slade Stuart Hogg Scotland, Nic White Australia, Tomas Francis Wales


Academy squad

  1. ^ Exeter Chiefs do not separate their academy squad from their main squad on their website, therefore this list includes both
  2. ^ a b Exeter Chiefs sign lock Ryan McCauley on a short-term deal before the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season starts.[33]


  1. ^ "Contact". Exeter Chiefs F.C. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  2. ^ a b c "130 Years of Rugby History". Proteus Media. Archived from the original on 6 May 2014. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  3. ^ Tobin, Christopher (2005). The Original All Blacks 1905–06. Auckland, New Zealand: Hodder Moa Beckett. p. 31. ISBN 1-86958-995-5.
  4. ^ Frank Keating. "How the original All Blacks went down in the annals of history". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  5. ^ "Exeter Chiefs". Scrumdown.org.uk. 29 April 2014. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  6. ^ Gibbins, Dave (25 May 2010). "Exeter Chiefs closing in on Premiership dream". BBC Sport. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  7. ^ Tuckett, Phil (26 May 2010). "Bristol 10-29 Exeter (Exeter win 38-16 on aggregate)". BBC Sport. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  8. ^ a b Freshers' guide to: Exeter Chiefs. "Freshers' guide to: Exeter Chiefs". University of Exeter. Archived from the original on 6 May 2014. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  9. ^ a b "Exeter Chiefs deducted two points and fined £5,000". BBC Sport. 27 April 2011. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  10. ^ "Exeter's hopes of European silverware are dashed". ITV. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  11. ^ "Heineken Cup 2012/13 - Points table". ESPN. Retrieved 7 May 2014.
  12. ^ Osborne, Chris (16 March 2014). "LV= Cup final: Exeter Chiefs 15-8 Northampton Saints". BBC Sport. Retrieved 7 May 2014. In 2014–15 Exeter Chiefs finished 6th in the Aviva Premiership, reached the semi-finals of the European Challenge cup, losing at Gloucester, and reached the final of the LV Cup again, losing 22–20 to Saracens at Franklins Gardens.
  13. ^ "Aviva Premiership Table: 2015-16". Telegraph.co.uk. Archived from the original on 22 February 2017. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
  14. ^ "Premiership semi-final: Exeter Chiefs 34-23 Wasps". BBC Sport. 21 May 2016. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
  15. ^ "Premiership final: Saracens 28-20 Exeter Chiefs". BBC Sport. 28 May 2016. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
  16. ^ "Match report: Wasps vs Exeter". The Independent. 9 April 2016. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
  17. ^ "Match Report: Wasps 20 Exeter Chiefs 23 (AET)". Premiership Rugby. 27 May 2017. Retrieved 1 November 2020.
  18. ^ "Premiership final: Exeter Chiefs 10-27 Saracens". BBC. 26 May 2018. Retrieved 1 November 2020.
  19. ^ "Mick Cleary's verdict: Double-winners Exeter Chiefs join elite club after show of heart, soul and muscle". The Telegraph. 24 October 2020. Retrieved 1 November 2020.
  20. ^ "History - Exeter Chiefs".
  21. ^ "Phase One works to begin at Sandy Park".
  22. ^ Pilnick, Brent (30 October 2012). "Exeter Chiefs granted permission for Sandy Park expansion". BBC Sport. Retrieved 7 May 2014.
  23. ^ ""An Interview with Bob Staddon"". 3 September 2012.
  24. ^ Herrmann, Rachel (9 June 2016). ""Playing Indian": Exeter Rugby in a Postcolonial Age". Centre for Imperial and Global History, University of Exeter.
  25. ^ "Exeter Chiefs urged to change 'offensive' name by Native American expert". BBC News. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  26. ^ "Group Started by Exeter Chiefs supporters petition club to drop racist imagery". The Daily Telegraph. 1 July 2020.
  27. ^ "The branding debate that has split Exeter Chiefs fans". RugbyPass. 8 July 2020.
  28. ^ "Exeter Chiefs fans at odds over use of Native American branding". BBC Sport. 8 July 2020.
  29. ^ "Face-Off: Is Exeter Chiefs' branding appropriate?". Rugby World. 5 July 2020.
  30. ^ "Exeter to keep Chiefs name & logo, but retire 'Big Chief' mascot". BBC Sport. 29 July 2020.
  31. ^ "Exeter Chiefs controversially keep logo following branding review but retire mascot". Sky Sports. 29 July 2020.
  32. ^ "Exeter Chiefs Player List". Exeter Chiefs. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  33. ^ "Ryan McCauley and Sam Nixon: Exeter Chiefs sign two new forwards". BBC Sport. 13 August 2021. Retrieved 13 August 2021.
  34. ^ a b "Exeter Chiefs Coaching Staff". exetercheifs.co.uk. Retrieved 4 June 2019.

Further reading[edit]

  • Clark, Neil (2012). It Was Never My Ambition To Become A Hooker. Chequered Flag Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9569460-2-7.

External links[edit]


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