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Exeter preview 2012/13

Expectations are high at the Chiefs as they look to break into the Aviva Premiership top four.

High hopes at Sandy Park

The Chiefs find themselves in the unusual position of having big expectations placed on their shoulders this season. Having surprised many by avoiding the drop in their maiden Premiership campaign, Exeter defied their critics once again last season by mounting a serious challenge for a play-off place. In fact they were only officially denied in the final round of fixtures - with Northampton doing enough to pip them to fourth. The club's development under Rob Baxter means the Chiefs will now be classed as serious contenders for the top four - and it will be interesting to see how they cope with the increased expectations as well as the demands of a historic first Heineken Cup challenge. With this in mind, Baxter has added to squad - with the arrivals of Australia international Dean Mumm and former Worcester No.8 Kai Horstmann looking good pieces of business, while Fiji winger Watisoni Votu could be one of the signings of the summer if he is granted a visa. Baxter has also brought in Carl Rimmer, Jack Yeandle and Alex Brown after the trio impressed in the RFU Championship, while Ian Whitten and Damian Welch have both swapped the RaboDirect Pro12 for the Premiership. The Chiefs, though, have lost the services of powerful centre Bryan Rennie and popular Samoa back-rower Chad Slade. However, England Under-20s internationals Sam Hill, Henry Slade and Luke Cowan-Dickie look to have the class to make the step up over the coming months.

Exeter stats

Director of rugby: Rob Baxter
Captain: Tom Hayes
Sky Bet odds: 40/1
Last season: 5th
In: Carl Rimmer (Cornish Pirates), Jack Yeandle (Doncaster), Alex Brown (Doncaster), Damian Welch (Scarlets), Dean Mumm (Waratahs), Kai Horstmann (Worcester), Will Chudley (Newcastle), Ian Whitten (Ulster), Watisoni Votu (subject to visa, Vuda Blues)
Out: John Andress (Worcester), Chris Bentley (retired), Chad Slade (Oyonnax), Pat Phibbs (Leicester), Bryan Rennie (Bristol), Addison Lockley (Moseley), Michal Stupple (Plymouth Albion), Jon Vickers (Plymouth Albion) Peter Short (retired), Chris Bentley (retired)
Key man - Tom Johnson: The flanker has deservedly gone on to win international honours with England - just recognition for a series of superb display for the Chiefs.
Prediction: 6th

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