Gareth Steenson says Exeter Chiefs are relishing title defence
By PA Sports
Last Updated: 16/08/17 6:13pm
Exeter captain Gareth Steenson is relishing the "new challenge" of starting an Aviva Premiership season as defending champions.
The Chiefs' pulsating Premiership final victory over Wasps at Twickenham in May saw them complete a remarkable rise from English rugby's lower divisions to the sport's domestic peak.
But it all starts again on September 1 when Exeter launch their league campaign against West Country rivals Gloucester under the Friday night floodlights at Kingsholm.
Fly-half Steenson's extra-time penalty secured title glory for Exeter and they have retained the overwhelming majority of last season's squad, while adding players like flanker Matt Kvesic and scrum-half Nic White.
"It's a completely brand new experience for us," said Steenson.
We haven't performed that well in Europe, which is something we will definitely talk about.
"We are probably not everyone's second favourite team any more, we are not the plucky underdog, which is a completely new thing.
"It's nice to come in and have a new challenge. The club has always been about progressing and there is so much more the club can achieve and do.
"We haven't performed that well in Europe, which is something we will definitely talk about.
"And we want to establish ourselves as a top-four Premiership team. First and foremost, we want to make sure we are hitting those play-offs again.
"There is so much potential in the squad to continue to fight on all fronts, really, and it is something we will really look forward to."
Exeter struggled during the early stages of last season, prompting a squad meeting in October that laid a foundation to turn things around.
"You have got to look at what last season was," Steenson added.
"For us, you take it from the Premiership final the season before against Saracens. We probably rolled into last season, and it was very evident that we weren't on the ball.
"We were probably still patting ourselves on the back on how well we had done.
"We had a meeting in October time, and righted a few wrongs. It was a good meeting.
"The danger of last season was that it could have been a nothing season for us and it ended up being one of the greatest. It just showed the resolve we have in the group."