Tuesday, 2 September 2014

2014/15 Season Preview: Exeter

Nickname: Chiefs
Founded: 1871
Years in Top Tier: 4
Last Year: 8th in Prem (45 Points), Group Stage in Heineken Cup, Anglo-Welsh Cup Champions
Europe: Challenge Cup
Director of Rugby: Rob Baxter

In: Thomas Waldrom (Leicester), Moray Low (Glasgow), Tomas Francis (London Scottish), Mitch Lees (London Welsh), Elvis Taione (Jersey), Adam Hughes (Bristol), Chrysander Botha (Golden Lions)
Out: Hoani Tui (Lyon OU), Craig Mitchell (Cardiff), Romana Graham (La Rochelle), Chris Whitehead (Retirement), Jason Shoemark (Hawkes Bay NZ), James Hanks (Retirement), Lloyd Fairbrother (Newport), James Phillips (London Scottish), Luke Arscott (Bath), Sam Blanchet (England 7s)
Ins: 7
Outs: 10

Exeter suffered a 14 points drop in their Premiership total from 2012/13 to 2013/14, shifting from an easy 5th to a disappointing 8th, though they did snare their first ever piece of silverware with the LV Cup.

Exeter’s promotion pack is now almost completely dismantled with Hayes, Hanks & Baxter all retiring in the last season.  Budgen’s gone, Tui’s gone, Clarke’s gone and so has his understudy Whitehead, only Sturgess, Johnson and Scaysbrook remain.  A new generation has been mooted to replace them the highly acclaimed England age group stars of Jack Nowell, Henry Slade, Sam Hill and Luck Cowan-Dickie.

Their star signings have been our own Thomas Waldrom and Scotland’s Moray Low, who replaces Lyon bound Tui, but the best ones might turn out to be Mitch Lees and Adam Brown who impressed in last season's Championship Play Offs for London Welsh and Bristol respectively.

Perhaps the most interesting move of the off season will be Sireli Naqelevuki’s switch from centre to the pack.  The monstrous Fijian has been a great player for Exeter providing front foot ball and a bullying presence in the midfield but injuries have slowed him down and with World Cup ambitions a move to flanker might just be the canniest bit of business, for player and club, this summer.

Exeter strikes me as very much in a transition year.  I can’t see them embroiled in a relegation battle, they will win too many home games for that, but equally I can’t see Gareth Steenson leading a play off charge.  Their young guns are not yet ready to fire fully and the old curmudgeonly pack has moved on to pastures new.  A run at the Challenge Cup should be the target along with Champions Cup qualification for next season but even that will probably be beyond them.

Prediction: 9th

No comments:

Post a Comment