Team: Exeter Chiefs
Coach: Rob Baxter
Home ground: Sandy Park
Luke Arscott (Bristol Rugby), Garrick Cowley (Esher), Ryan Davis (Bath Rugby), Ignacio Elosu (Viadana), Eoghan Grace (Shannon), Andrew Higgins (unattached), James Phillips (Bristol Rugby), Jason Shoemark (Hawke’s Bay), Jon Vickers (Northampton Saints), Chris Whitehead (London Welsh)
Tom Bedford (Bedford Blues), Richard Bolt (Bristol Rugby), Sam Blythe (Taunton), Matt Cornwell (Northampton Saints), Toby Freeman (Ordizia), Danny Gray (unattached), Shane Kingsland (Manawatu), Steve Jones (unattached), Emyr Lewis (retired), Sean Marsden (Bristol Rugby), Alan Miller (unattached), Saul Nelson (London Welsh Clive Stuart-Smith (Esher), Sean Tomes (Bedford Blues)
The Premiership new boys will have the wind in their sails and a massive surge of home support and goodwill going into the new season. Furthermore, they arrive on the back of Leeds’ impressive season last year proving results are there to be had if fitness and effort are the core facets of the squad.
Few teams will know what to expect from a visit to Sandy Park, and this could work to their great advantage. Results in home fixtures will be crucial for Exeter but it is doubtful they will be anywhere else than in and around the relegation dog-fight as the season draws to a close.
The lack of proven Premiership quality could well be their undoing. Rob Baxter has made a few shrewd signings, but the general dearth of experience in the squad could mean they are caught like rabbits in headlights during the first half of the season, and then find that there’s no way back.
One to watch:
Former Bath wing Andrew Higgins could be one of the signings of the season, with one or two ghosts to banish after his miscreant behaviour and a stage on which to do so with the underdog side.
Promoted from The Championship
I’d love to see another survival story, but I’m not brave enough to predict anything other than 12th.