Exeter Chiefs Rugby Club
Exeter Chiefs Rugby: Host to NZ All Blacks First English Appearance
Exeter Chiefs History and Highlights.
The Exeter Chiefs Rugby Club was first founded back in 1871, and played its first match two years later against St. Luke’s College.
The club started out playing at the County Ground Stadium, which had a capacity of 5200. It was a host to Rugby union, greyhound racing, and speedway. It was also the venue where Exeter would host the New Zealand All Blacks’ for its historical first match on English soil in 1905, which saw New Zealand beat Devon XV 55-4. The ground eventually closed in 2006.
After the ground closed, the Exeter Chiefs moved into their current ground Sandy Park due to a need for better facilities. The stadium has a capacity of 13,652 and, unlike the previous multi-sport County Ground Stadium venue, was built solely for rugby union games.
In 2021, the club announced plans to expand the capacity to 20,000. This decision was made as knockout matches in European competitions must be played at grounds with a large capacity.
During their amateur years, Exeter Rugby won the Devon RFU Senior Cup sixteen times between the years of 1889 and 1995 along with five runner-up spots in the same timespan.
Back to back promotions saw the Exeter Chiefs in the second tier of English rugby at the start of the 1997-98 season as a newly-professional side. The club had a rebrand in 1999 to the Exeter Chiefs which was their given nickname in the 1930s.
However, they had to wait over ten years until they could gain promotion to the English Premiership. At the start of the 2009-10 season, Exeter Chiefs appointed Rob Baxter as their new director of rugby and he hit the ground running as they won the RFU Championship, securing their place in the English Premiership for the first time in their history.
In the 2013/14 season, the Chiefs won the Anglo-Welsh Cup which at the time was known as the LV Cup. They won the cup beating Northampton Town 15-8 in the final thanks to tries from Chris Whitehead and Dean Mumm.
Just two seasons later, the Chiefs won their first English Premiership title by beating the Wasps 23-20 in a thrilling final after extra time. The following year they won the Anglo-Welsh Cup for the second time beating Bath 28-11 in a comprehensive victory for the Chiefs.
The 2019/20 season was Exeter Chiefs’ best season ever as they managed to win both the English Premiership and the European Champions Cup. This was an incredible season for Exeter and they were widely considered at the time to be one of the best clubs on the planet.
The Exeter Chiefs came under fire for many years as their fans would wear Native American-style headdresses and even war paint to matches. Many clubs complained about potentially offensive cultural appropriation to league bosses, with petitions being set up by the league’s fans.
Following the controversy that lasted numerous years, Exeter Chiefs decided to drop the Native American branding in 2022 following years of protests. The club redesigned the club logo which features winger Jack Nowell depicting a member of the Iron Age tribe.
Over the years, the Exeter Chiefs have had six members of the squad represent the club on British and Irish Lions tours, including Jack Nowell and Tomas Francis in 2017, and then Stuart Hogg, Sam Simmonds, Jonny Hill, Luke Cowan-Dickie in 2021. Geoff Parling, Jack Nowell, Henry Slade and Luke Cowan-Dickie are the four players who’ve represented England at Rugby World Cups whilst playing for Exeter Chiefs.
have world-class talent in their squad, which includes the likes of Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jack Nowell, Sam Simmonds and Scotland captain Stuart Hogg.
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