Bob Baker: Built to last? Exeter's foundations are solid enough for prolonged success but there are pitfalls

 
Bob Baker
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Wasps v Exeter Chiefs - Aviva Premiership Final
Exeter were crowned Premiership champions after defeating Wasps at Twickenham on Saturday (Source: Getty)

To sustain success, rugby clubs must be built on solid foundations. Although Exeter play at Sandy Park, the club’s building blocks have been laid upon something of greater geological consequence.

The Chiefs are rarely mentioned as having huge financial firepower but they are quietly confident about the thickness of their chequebook and certainly don’t lie awake worrying about satisfying the next coupon payment for bond holders.

On the playing side, the Devonians can also boast a cohesive management team that doesn’t tend to get the same column inches of many, less successful competitors.

Their recruitment strategy is conservative and focussed. They don't pay up for star names but make sure that they not only have strength in the most crucial positions, but also enough experience and stardust to avoid a mid-table finish, where others might be satisfied with the safety of mediocrity.

They’ve got a blend of tough academy graduates and senior heads who most likely arrived at Exeter feeling aggrieved by their previous club. Thomas Waldrom was informed that he wasn’t good enough for Leicester, but found the try line with greater regularity than any other player in the league the following season.

Wasps v Exeter Chiefs - Aviva Premiership Final
Thomas Waldrom has thrived in Devon (Source: Getty)

Onfield achievements have also allowed the club to capitalise on wider factors that act in their favour, not least their geographic remoteness.

The lack of competition for crowds across Dorset, Devon and Cornwall has added Chiefs to the stands and reinforced the already steadfast loyalty evident amongst those chanting the spiritual war cries of the Native Americans.

As excruciatingly tight as Saturday’s Premiership final victory over Wasps was, the outcome suggests the importance of a club’s spirit and foundation. Wasps uprooted to Coventry to support an overhauled business model, currently make do with temporary training facilities at Broadstreet RFC and continue to work out what they stand for.

Exeter know who they are, know the fans they represent and know the journey the club has commonly achieved. In the seasons to come, the most obvious risk factors that could prevent another title winning campaign are losing director of rugby Rob Baxter to England in 2019 and not supplementing some ageing players in backbone positions.

The Chiefs will enjoy replacing their feathered head dresses with the Premiership’s crown, but will be aware that with the quality of the competition continuing to improve, keeping hold of it might well be a tougher challenge altogether.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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