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Exeter happy to make slow and steady progress on their way to the top

Published 27/05/2016

Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter is at the heart of the club's consistency
Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter is at the heart of the club's consistency

Chairman Tony Rowe wants Exeter Chiefs to become Europe's most successful rugby club - but all in good time.

Rowe has transformed the Chiefs from a steady amateur-era outfit to Aviva Premiership finalists across the course of a 23-year association with the Devon club.

Rowe has told Exeter to throw everything at beating defending champions Saracens in Saturday's Premiership final, but not to lose too much sleep if one ambition among many is not realised this weekend.

From promotion in 2010 to contesting the top-flight title six years on, Exeter have always championed continuity amid progress, and Rowe insists nothing will change on Saturday, whatever the result.

"Victory this weekend isn't a dream, we don't have dreams - sometimes you wake up from a dream to discover it's a nightmare," said Rowe.

"We don't have dreams, it's ambition. Our ambition here at the club is to be the best in England and eventually the best in Europe.

"We're in no hurry, we've got lots of time, there's no pressure.

"We have an opportunity this Saturday to do that, and it would be fantastic if we can pull it off.

"But if we don't it's not a problem. We're here for the long-haul and we're enjoying it.

"We're enjoying the road we're going along, sharing it with lovely people.

"We've got good players, we've still got five or six players who got us out of the Championship."

Exeter's greatest success remains holding steadfastly to a rugby ethos fast fading in many areas of the professional game.

Head coach Rob Baxter's father John played more than 200 games for Exeter before taking a litany of roles in administration.

Current boss Baxter and brother Richard both captained the Chiefs in their playing days.

The family's farming traditions have always permeated their rugby, and Rowe is one among many delighted they still do.

"I first arrived at the club in 1993 and when I went to the first game, the atmosphere, the heart of the club was there then," said Rowe.

"Rob's father John as chairman was doing his utmost to keep it together, but they needed money. It was all there, really, and we've just worked to foster that spirit.

"One of our biggest challenges is to try to keep that. Rob's a big club man, and it's trying to keep it together, and as much as you can a real rugby club.

"A community rugby club is totally different from a professional rugby club, it has to be, but you've got to try to hang onto your roots, your ethos.

"Break Rob in half and you get Exeter Rugby Club, and the same for his whole family."

Boasting the Premiership's most settled set-ups, Saracens and Exeter are both proving the potential fruit of trust in long-term strategy.

Exeter flanker Don Armand admitted Rowe's ability to couple the highest of ambitions with no madcap timescale feeds the side's confidence ahead of the club's biggest game to date.

"I think it's just reassuring to know it's all part of a process, and it's not trying to win it as quickly as possible because there's time running out," said Armand.

"It's important to get those kinds of values instilled in a club where it's not the be-all and end-all.

"Once you get the right process going, then you can start getting guys doing the right thing more often, because you know the process works.

"If years down the line we find a winning formula because it took longer than expected, then that's what happens.

"But at the end of the day, we're going to get the right rewards from it."

British and Irish Lions lock Geoff Parling joined Exeter from Leicester last summer and immediately told his new team-mates the Chiefs could win the league.

Now just one step away, full-back Phil Dollman admitted that seal of approval from a former league winner with Leicester has offered another shot in the arm for club confidence.

"Maybe in the past the chat had been that we're good enough to beat teams, that we're good enough to push up to the top end of the table," said Dollman, one of the survivors from the Chiefs side that won promotion to the Premiership in 2010.

"Someone coming in and actually putting it out there in front of the squad, he's putting it out there to be shot down and he's not afraid to say it.

"He'll say to us that we are good enough, and he's obviously been away from the squad coming into it. He's looked at us from afar, seen those qualities and relayed that to us.

"Everyone wants to win this game, without doubt. But it doesn't seem like this weekend is going to be a flash in the pan."

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