Ambitious owner Tony Rowe made it clear that world domination is not beyond his club’s reach after watching Exeter claim a second Premiership title in four years at Twickenham on Saturday, just a week on from their maiden European success in winning the Heineken Champions Cup final over Racing 92.
With the starting XV that defeated Wasps 19-13 on Saturday holding an average age of just 26 years and five months, and fierce rivals Saracens disposed of to the second tier of English rugby, Exeter have the potential and opportunity to dominate the game for years to come, with head coach Rob Baxter quickly talking up the challenge with repeating the double next season. But as the rain continued to pour in south-west London on Saturday night long after the final whistle, not even the weather could dampen Rowe’s mood, with his ambitions stretching far further than conquering Europe once more.
“I remember Rob telling the players three or four years ago, after another final against Sarries: ‘we’ve got to learn how to win’,” Rowe said.
“We need to establish ourselves as the premier club. I want it to be the premier club in the world, and we can do that. We’ve got ambitious guys there.
“You keep doing what we are doing. We’ve got one of the best coaching groups in the northern hemisphere. I like to take my time. I said: ‘we’d do Europe in five years (after the first Premiership title in 2017). How about we do the world in the next five? It would be nice to have a world club game.”
A north vs south game has long been mooted as a possible move in club rugby to bring the Champions Cup and Super Rugby champions together for the right to be called the world club champions, although in a post-coronavirus world that possibility looks significantly harder to achieve.
But there can be no doubting Exeter’s place at the top of the game, certainly among the Premiership and now across Europe thanks to last weekend’s victory. The win on Saturday, against a dogged Wasps side that refused to be beaten until the very end as they came within a whisker of causing a major upset before Joe Simmond’s wrapped up the victory with a final penalty on the stroke of full-time, culminated a 10-year rise from the Championship to only the fourth doubles winners that England has produced, but Baxter is determined to ensure that this is not the end of the journey, but merely the beginning of the next chapter in Exeter history.
"I'd like to think so because I genuinely think that not getting to finals and not progressing will hurt us,” Baxter said. "It took us years and years and years to win the Premiership for the first time. We could then have said we've achieved everything we wanted to achieve.
"But we didn't and now that we've won these two trophies, have we achieved everything we've wanted to? No we haven't. There's always something else to move on to.
"There's another game in three weeks' time and we want to keep moving forward. I want to see young guys come through. I want to see Joe Simmonds keep developing.
"We've got to use our drive and use our ambition and use this group of players, because they are the right age group, to drive us for four or five years.
"We need to use their desire to experience these moments as much as we can. It won't be simple, it never is. For us it's always been about steady progress."
Baxter does not have long to wait to begin writing that next chapter though. The 2019/20 Premiership campaign proved the longest in history at a year and six days’ long, but the off-season will be the shortest in history as the champions begin the 2020/21 campaign in under a month’s time on 20 November against Harlequins.
Much of the upcoming eight-month club season will be heavily disrupted by clashes with international rugby, and that’s without taking the ongoing situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic into account. England internationals are set to miss at least 11 of the first 14 Premiership rounds as there is a direct clash with the Autumn Nations Cup and Six Nations fixtures, with a rest period also factored in after the upcoming run of internationals, while there is currently a debate over Premiership clubs refusing to release their players for a Test acth between the British and irish Lions and Japan next June ahead of the tour of South Africa.
Yet the increasing number of internationals triggered an angry response from Rowe, who called on the Rugby Football Union to start coughing up the right level of compensation for greater access to the country's cream of the crop.
“All this stuff coming down about more international games - I am totally against that,” Rowe added. “We employ the players, they are our club players.
“Being forced to release them for so many international games is not good. We don’t get compensated enough. The reality is that we bred these guys for ourselves, we didn’t breed them for England. England can get too greedy. They are very quick to run the other way when we want money; at the moment we are desperate for money in the Premiership to stay alive.
“We are one of the wealthier clubs and we will see it through, but there are some clubs that are really struggling and we should be able to turn to the RFU for financial support because they turn to us when they want our players.”