Rugby World Cup: England selections show Exeter Chiefs rise

By Brent PilnickBBC Sport
Henry Slade, Jack Nowell and Geoff Parling
Henry Slade, Jack Nowell and Geoff Parling will become the first Exeter players to feature at a World Cup for England next month

Six years ago Rob Baxter was preparing for his first game as Exeter head coach, away at Moseley in the Championship.

Skip forward a World Cup-cycle-and-a-half and the Chiefs boss is having to make do without three of his squad for the start of the season as they will be pulling on the red rose of England.

It is another mark of how far the club has come in a relatively short time.

"It's fantastic for us," said Baxter after Henry Slade, Jack Nowell and Geoff Parling were named in England's 31-man party for the World Cup.

"When we first got into the Premiership, you start thinking about the markers that will help you develop into a better Premiership side.

"One of those is developing into a club where players can come and play for you in the Premiership, but also know they've got a great opportunity to play international rugby.

"That two have come through our academy (Slade and Nowell) is even better, but the fact we can sign someone like Geoff Parling who's a current England international also shows that we can attract quality players," he told BBC Sport.

England players while at Exeter

But getting players onto the radar of the England selectors has not been easy for Exeter, who have only had Tom Johnson pulling on the white jersey previously.

"We were battling to get a second, third or fourth person in there and that's been a relatively slow process," said Baxter.

The Chiefs have just enjoyed their best-ever season, missing out on fourth place and a play-off spot by the narrowest of margins, returning to the LV= Cup final and making the last four in the European Challenge Cup for the first time.

As well as Slade, Nowell and Parling, who has yet to play for Exeter after joining from Leicester, there are other players knocking on the England door.

Hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie was one of the final players to be released from the England party ahead of Thursday's selection deadline.

Dave Ewers and Thomas Waldrom, who won four England caps while at Leicester between 2012-13, have also caught the eye, with Waldrom scoring a Premiership-best 16 tries last season.

Underneath those, there are high hopes for a host of young players who are with England's youth teams and spending time on dual-registration at Championship and lower-division clubs.

Exeter under Rob Baxter
2009-10Win promotion to Premiership.
2010-11Eighth in first Premiership season.
2011-12Fifth in Premiership and quarter-finals of Amlin Cup.
2012-13Sixth in Premiership and make Heineken Cup debut.
2013-14Eighth in Premiership and win the LV= Cup.
2014-15Fifth in Premiership, LV= Cup finalists and semi-finals of European Challenge Cup.

"All these things are tied together," Baxter added. "By having a league season that we had last year, that automatically highlights players within your squad.

"Tom Waldrom getting back into the Saxons and playing as well as he did, Dave Ewers coming through the Saxons and being very close to an England squad on the performances he put in, it comes down to the quality of what we do as a club and what we do as a team.

"That gives everyone those opportunities and puts them in the shop window to do a lot of good things.

"Play well on TV, start getting the pundits talking about you and all of a sudden Exeter becomes a club that's on a roll where your team performances almost drive what you achieve as individuals."

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