|Full name||Exeter Rugby Club|
|Location||Exeter, Devon, England|
|Ground(s)||Sandy Park (Capacity: 13,593)|
|Chairman||Tony Rowe OBE|
|CEO||Tony Rowe OBE|
|Director of Rugby||Rob Baxter|
|Most appearances||Ben Moon (197)|
|Top scorer||Gareth Steenson (1,651)|
|Most tries||Sam Simmonds (52)|
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.
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. 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. It was from that game that New Zealand became known as the "All Blacks".
When league rugby started, Exeter were initially placed in the Devon leagues.
Early league and professional era
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. 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. 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.
In their first season in the Premiership, they finished eighth 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. They also made their debut in the European Challenge Cup, making their way to the quarter finals where they lost to Stade Français. In the next season, they finished fifth in the Premiership which permitted them to play in the Heineken Cup for the first time. 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. 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.
In the 2015–16 season the Chiefs finished in second place in Premiership Rugby entitling them to a home semi final in the Aviva Premiership which was played against Wasps. They won the match 34-23 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 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 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.
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.
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. 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. 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. 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.
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.
In 1999, Exeter Rugby Club turned semi-professional and changed their name to Exeter Chiefs, after previously being referred to as the Chiefs in the 1930s. 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. News outlets such as the BBC reported that the club had been urged to change its name and to stop playing "Indian." 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.
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. 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. 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.
In October 2021, fellow Premiership club Wasps called on the RFU and Premiership Rugby to rule on the acceptability of Exeter fans wearing Native American-style headdresses and discouraged the visiting Exeter fans from wearing them, though they stopped short of a ban. In November 2021 the National Congress of American Indians published an open letter calling for Exeter to drop their logo, the use of headdresses and venue names such as the 'Wigwam Bar', and that the continued use of such things perpetuated "dehumanising stereotypes". In response to this, the club stated that this issue would be addressed in the November AGM, and a decision made by the Board of Directors in the following weeks. As of 7 December 2021, the Board had still not come to a decision.
|Premiership||Domestic Cup||European Cup|
|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|
|2002–03||National Division 1||3rd||104||N/A||Powergen Cup||6th round||Not qualified||N/A|
|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
- European Rugby Champions Cup
- Champions: (1) 2019–20
- Premiership Rugby
- RFU Championship
- National League 1
- Champions: (1) 1996–97
- National League 2 South
- Champions: (1) 1995–96
- Anglo–Welsh Cup
- EDF Energy Trophy
- Runners–Up: (4) 2001–02, 2002–03, 2006–07, 2007–08
- Devon RFU Senior Cup (tier 5)
- Champions: (16) 1889–90, 1970–71, 1971–72, 1972–73, 1975–76, 1977–78, 1979–80, 1981–82, 1988–89, 1989–90, 1990–91, 1991–92, 1992–93, 1993–94, 1994–95, 1995–96
- Runners–Up: (5) 1888-89, 1904-05, 1976-77,1980–81, 1985–86
- Devon RFU Junior Cup
- Champions: (1) 1905–06 (reserve side)
- Runners–Up: (4) 1903–04 (reserve side)
- Premiership Rugby Shield
- Champions: (2) 2011–12, 2015–16
Note: Flags indicate national union as has been defined under WR eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-WR nationality.
First Team Coaching
|Director of Rugby||Rob Baxter|
|Team manager||Tony Walker|
|Head coach||Ali Hepher|
|Forwards coach||Rob Hunter|
|Defence coach||Julian Salvi|
|Skills coach||Ricky Pellow|
|Academy manager||Rob Gibson|
|Senior academy coach||Haydn Thomas|
Notable former players
The following players have toured with the Lions while playing for Exeter:
Rugby World Cup
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 , Siaosi Vaili, Opeta Palepoi|
|2011||3||-||Gonzalo Camacho , Junior Poluleuligaga , Craig Mitchell|
|2015||7||Geoff Parling, Jack Nowell, Henry Slade||Tomas Francis , Chrysander Botha , Elvis Taione , Michele Campagnaro|
|2019||6||Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jack Nowell, Henry Slade||Stuart Hogg , Nic White , Tomas Francis|
- Exeter Chiefs do not separate their academy squad from their main squad on their website, therefore this list includes both
- "Contact". Exeter Chiefs F.C. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
- "130 Years of Rugby History". Proteus Media. Archived from the original on 6 May 2014. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
- Tobin, Christopher (2005). The Original All Blacks 1905–06. Auckland, New Zealand: Hodder Moa Beckett. p. 31. ISBN 1-86958-995-5.
- Frank Keating. "How the original All Blacks went down in the annals of history". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
- "Exeter Chiefs". Scrumdown.org.uk. 29 April 2014. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
- Gibbins, Dave (25 May 2010). "Exeter Chiefs closing in on Premiership dream". BBC Sport. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
- Tuckett, Phil (26 May 2010). "Bristol 10-29 Exeter (Exeter win 38-16 on aggregate)". BBC Sport. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
- 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.
- "Exeter Chiefs deducted two points and fined £5,000". BBC Sport. 27 April 2011. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
- "Exeter's hopes of European silverware are dashed". ITV. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
- "Heineken Cup 2012/13 - Points table". ESPN. Retrieved 7 May 2014.
- 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.
- "Aviva Premiership Table: 2015-16". Telegraph.co.uk. Archived from the original on 22 February 2017. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
- "Premiership semi-final: Exeter Chiefs 34-23 Wasps". BBC Sport. 21 May 2016. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
- "Premiership final: Saracens 28-20 Exeter Chiefs". BBC Sport. 28 May 2016. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
- "Match report: Wasps vs Exeter". The Independent. 9 April 2016. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
- "Match Report: Wasps 20 Exeter Chiefs 23 (AET)". Premiership Rugby. 27 May 2017. Retrieved 1 November 2020.
- "Premiership final: Exeter Chiefs 10-27 Saracens". BBC. 26 May 2018. Retrieved 1 November 2020.
- "Mick Cleary's verdict: Double-winners Exeter Chiefs join elite club after show of heart, soul and muscle". The Telegraph. 24 October 2020. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 1 November 2020.
- "History - Exeter Chiefs".
- "Phase One works to begin at Sandy Park".
- Pilnick, Brent (30 October 2012). "Exeter Chiefs granted permission for Sandy Park expansion". BBC Sport. Retrieved 7 May 2014.
- ""An Interview with Bob Staddon"". 3 September 2012.
- Herrmann, Rachel (9 June 2016). ""Playing Indian": Exeter Rugby in a Postcolonial Age". Centre for Imperial and Global History, University of Exeter.
- "Exeter Chiefs urged to change 'offensive' name by Native American expert". BBC News. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
- "Group Started by Exeter Chiefs supporters petition club to drop racist imagery". The Daily Telegraph. 1 July 2020. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022.
- "The branding debate that has split Exeter Chiefs fans". RugbyPass. 8 July 2020.
- "Exeter Chiefs fans at odds over use of Native American branding". BBC Sport. 8 July 2020.
- "Face-Off: Is Exeter Chiefs' branding appropriate?". Rugby World. 5 July 2020.
- "Exeter to keep Chiefs name & logo, but retire 'Big Chief' mascot". BBC Sport. 29 July 2020.
- "Exeter Chiefs controversially keep logo following branding review but retire mascot". Sky Sports. 29 July 2020.
- "Premiership club Wasps ask rugby bosses for 'headdress' steer for Exeter Chiefs game". BBC Sport. 12 October 2021. Retrieved 11 November 2021.
- "Exeter Chiefs: National Congress of American Indians call on Premiership club to drop Native American branding". BBC Sport. 11 November 2021. Retrieved 11 November 2021.
- "Exeter Rugby Club Statement". www.exeterchiefs.co.uk. Retrieved 7 December 2021.
- "Exeter Chiefs Player List". Exeter Chiefs. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
- "Exeter Chiefs Coaching Staff". exetercheifs.co.uk. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
- Clark, Neil (2012). It Was Never My Ambition To Become A Hooker. Chequered Flag Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9569460-2-7.