Inside Exeter: how Chiefs have risen to edge of European glory in a decade | Robert Kitson

Just over 10 years ago they had never featured in the top division but now Rob Baxter’s side are preparing for a Champions Cup final against Racing 92

Most of the best upwardly mobile stories in British professional team sport have been football yarns. Wimbledon’s Crazy Gang, Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest, Sir Alex Ferguson’s Aberdeen: all were character-heavy outsiders who confounded their more fancied rivals. More recently there has been Leicester City, winners of the 2015-16 Premier League having played in the third tier only seven years earlier.

None of the above, though, can outdo the improbable journey of Exeter RFC from the edge of nowhere to the European Champions Cup final. If that sounds a bold claim, consider the evidence. Just over 10 years ago the fun-loving Chiefs were still a Championship team and had never featured in the country’s top division. They are not bankrolled by billionaire overseas owners, still rely on homegrown West Country talent and sundry cast-offs and even have a director of rugby, Rob Baxter, who could, if asked, shear a sheep on the Ashton Gate pitch before kick-off.

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