Exeter Chiefs

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.

Exeter Rugby
Exeter Chiefs logo.svg
Full nameExeter Rugby Club
UnionDevon RFU
Founded1871; 149 years ago (1871)
LocationExeter, Devon, England
Ground(s)Sandy Park (Capacity: 13,593)
ChairmanTony Rowe OBE
CEOTony Rowe OBE
Director of RugbyRob Baxter
Captain(s)Jack Yeandle
League(s)Premiership Rugby
1st kit
2nd kit
Official website

The club was founded in 1871 and since 2006 plays 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. They were promoted to the Premiership for the first time in 2010. In the 2016–17 Premiership Rugby season Exeter became English Champions for the first time. In 2017-18 Exeter topped the regular season table but lost the Play-Off final; this entitled them to compete in the 2018-19 European Rugby Champions Cup. The current head coach is Rob Baxter who was appointed in March 2009.

Exeter are the only club to win the top four tiers of English rugby, winning the Premiership in 2017, 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.


Early years

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.

Professional era

In the 1990s, Exeter Rugby Club turned semi-professional and changed their name from Exeter Rugby Club to Exeter Chiefs in 1999[5] after previously being referred to as the Chiefs in the 1930s.[6] In 2016, the club's fans were called upon to change their behavior over concerns that it could be considered an offensive appropriation of Native American culture.[7] News outlets later reported that the club had been urged to change its name.[8] 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. [9] 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.[10][11][12] 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 none the less 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.[13][14]

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.[15] 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.[16] 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 very first time.[17]

In their first season in the Premiership, they finished eighth[5] 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.[18] They also made their debut in the European Challenge Cup, making their way to the quarter finals where they lost to Stade Français.[19] In the next season, they finished fifth in the Premiership which permitted them to play in the Heineken Cup for the first time.[18] 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.[20] 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.[21]

2015/16 season

In the 2015/16 season the Chiefs finished in second place in Premiership Rugby[22] entitling them to a home semi final in the Aviva Premiership which was played against Wasps. They won the match 34-23[23] 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[24] 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.

The chiefs also reached the quarter final of the European Champions Cup. 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.[25]

2016/17 season

Exeter 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. After extra time The chiefs landed their maiden Premiership title with another Gareth Steenson penalty 7 years after they won the Championship and promotion, where Gareth Steenson was once again pivotal.

2017/18 season

The Chiefs finished 8 points clear at the top of the Premiership Rugby table, but ultimately lost to 27-10 to Saracens in the final.


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.[26] 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.[27] 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.[28]

Current kit

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.

Season summaries

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

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

Club honours

Exeter Chiefs

Exeter Braves

Current squad

The Exeter Chiefs squad for the remainder 2019–20 season is:[29][a]

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
Luke Cowan-Dickie Hooker   England
Harry Hocking Hooker   England
Jack Innard Hooker   England
Max Norey Hooker   England
Jordon Poole Hooker   England
Elvis Taione Hooker   Tonga
Jack Yeandle (c) Hooker   England
Tomas Francis Prop   Wales
Alec Hepburn Prop   England
Matt Johnson Prop   England
Billy Keast Prop   England
James Kenny Prop   England
Ben Moon Prop   England
Alfie Petch Prop   England
Patrick Schickerling Prop   Namibia
Danny Southworth Prop   England
Marcus Street Prop   England
Harry Wilkinson Prop   England
Harry Williams Prop   England
Dave Dennis Lock   Australia
Jonny Gray Lock   Scotland
Jonny Hill Lock   England
Jannes Kirsten Lock   South Africa
Sean Lonsdale Lock   England
Joe Parker-Cook Lock   England
Lewis Pearson Lock   England
Tom Price Lock   England
Sam Skinner Lock   Scotland
Stan South Lock   England
Cory Teague Lock   England
Christ Tschiunza Lock   England
Will Witty Lock   England
Don Armand Back row   England
Richard Capstick Back row   England
Aaron Hinkley Back row   England
Dave Ewers Back row   Zimbabwe
Sam Simmonds Back row   England
Rusiate Tuima Back row   England
Jacques Vermeulen Back row   South Africa
Charlie Wright Back row   England
Player Position Union
Tom Cairns Scrum-half   England
Sam Hidalgo-Clyne Scrum-half   Scotland
Jack Maunder Scrum-half   England
Sam Maunder Scrum-half   England
Joe Snow Scrum-half   England
Stu Townsend Scrum-half   England
Iwan Jenkins Fly-half   Wales
Joe Simmonds Fly-half   England
Harvey Skinner Fly-half   England
Gareth Steenson Fly-half   Ireland
Jack Walsh Fly-half   Australia
Corey Baldwin Centre   Wales
Ollie Devoto Centre   England
Tom Hendrickson Centre   New Zealand
Archie Hill Centre   England
Henry Slade Centre   England
Ian Whitten Centre   Ireland
Tom Wyatt Centre   England
Shea Cornish Wing   England
Alex Cuthbert Wing   Wales
Dan John Wing   Wales
Jack Nowell Wing   England
Tom O'Flaherty Wing   England
James Short Wing   England
Olly Woodburn Wing   England
Facundo Cordero Fullback   Argentina
Phil Dollman Fullback   Wales
Josh Hodge Fullback   England
Stuart Hogg Fullback   Scotland

Club staff

First Team Coaching[30]

Role Name
Director of Rugby   Rob Baxter
Team manager   Tony Walker
Head coach  Ali Hepher
Forwards coach   Rob Hunter
Defense coach   Julian Salvi
Skills coach   Ricky Pellow


Role Name
Academy manager   Rob Gibson
Senior academy coach   Haydn Thomas

Notable former players

[citation needed]


Academy squad

  1. ^ Exeter Chiefs do not separate their academy squad from their main squad on their website, therefore this list includes both


  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. ^ 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.
  6. ^ ""An Interview with Bob Staddon"". 3 September 2012.
  7. ^ Herrmann, Rachel (9 June 2016). ""Playing Indian": Exeter Rugby in a Postcolonial Age". Centre for Imperial and Global History, University of Exeter.
  8. ^ "Exeter Chiefs urged to change 'offensive' name by Native American expert". BBC News. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  9. ^ "Group Started by Exeter Chiefs supporters petition club to drop racist imagery". The Daily Telegraph. 1 July 2020.
  10. ^ "The branding debate that has split Exeter Chiefs fans". RugbyPass. 8 July 2020.
  11. ^ "Exeter Chiefs fans at odds over use of Native American branding". BBC Sport. 8 July 2020.
  12. ^ "Face-Off: Is Exeter Chiefs' branding appropriate?". Rugby World. 5 July 2020.
  13. ^ "Exeter to keep Chiefs name & logo, but retire 'Big Chief' mascot". BBC Sport. 29 July 2020.
  14. ^ "Exeter Chiefs controversially keep logo following branding review but retire mascot". Sky Sports. 29 July 2020.
  15. ^ "Exeter Chiefs". Scrumdown.org.uk. 29 April 2014. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  16. ^ Gibbins, Dave (25 May 2010). "Exeter Chiefs closing in on Premiership dream". BBC Sport. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  17. ^ Tuckett, Phil (26 May 2010). "Bristol 10-29 Exeter (Exeter win 38-16 on aggregate)". BBC Sport. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  18. ^ a b "Exeter Chiefs deducted two points and fined £5,000". BBC Sport. 27 April 2011. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  19. ^ "Exeter's hopes of European silverware are dashed". ITV. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  20. ^ "Heineken Cup 2012/13 - Points table". ESPN. Retrieved 7 May 2014.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ "Aviva Premiership Table: 2015-16". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
  23. ^ "Premiership semi-final: Exeter Chiefs 34-23 Wasps". BBC Sport. 21 May 2016. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
  24. ^ "Premiership final: Saracens 28-20 Exeter Chiefs". BBC Sport. 28 May 2016. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
  25. ^ "Match report: Wasps vs Exeter". The Independent. 9 April 2016. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
  26. ^ "History - Exeter Chiefs".
  27. ^ "Phase One works to begin at Sandy Park".
  28. ^ Pilnick, Brent (30 October 2012). "Exeter Chiefs granted permission for Sandy Park expansion". BBC Sport. Retrieved 7 May 2014.
  29. ^ "Exeter Chiefs Player List". Exeter Chiefs. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  30. ^ a b "Exeter Chiefs Coaching Staff". exetercheifs.co.uk. Retrieved 4 June 2019.

Further reading

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

External links