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Exeter Chiefs: BTSport.com's Gallagher Premiership 2019/20 season preview

After a galling defeat in the Premiership final, the Chiefs are out to regain their crown and rule the English top flight once again.

Last season's Gallagher Premiership finish: Runners-up (1st in the table W17 D0 L5 - Pts 86)

This season's target: Regain their crown from Saracens

Last season's top try scorer: Santiago Cordero (9)

Odds to win the Premiership: 5/2 (odds correct at the time of writing)

First four fixtures: Harlequins (H), Bath (A), Worcester (A), Bristol (H)

Transfers in: Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors), Will Witty (Newcastle Falcons), Tom Price (Scarlets), Stan South (Harlequins), Jacques Vermeulen (Sharks)

Transfers out: Santiago Cordero (Bordeaux), Jack Owlett (Wasps), Wilhelm van der Sluys (Lions), Tom Lawday (Harlequins), Paul Davis (Ealing Trailfinders), Harry Strong (Nottingham), Toby Salmon (Newcastle Falcons), Moray Low (retired), Ollie Atkins (Rouen), Mitch Lees (Brive), James Freeman (released)

Never want to miss an Exeter Chiefs game? You can watch live matches all season long in the Gallagher Premiership, Premiership Rugby Cup and Heineken Champions Cup on BT Sport. If you’re not yet a subscriber, find out how we can get you signed up in just 15 minutes.

Read on for BTSport.com's in-depth Chiefs season preview, or check out more from our exclusive series:

Bath | Bristol Bears | Gloucester | Harlequins | Leicester Tigers | London Irish | Northampton Saints | Saracens | Sale Sharks | Wasps | Worcester Warriors

Join now to watch Gallagher Premiership Rugby all season long on BT Sport

The story of last season

It was another case of so near and yet so far for Exeter last season. 

Despite finishing as top dogs after 22 rounds of the regular season, the Chiefs' quest for a second Premiership crown once again ended in heartbreak at the hands of Saracens.  

The Devonians finished eight points clear of the north London club in the table but ultimately fell agonisingly short of regaining the crown they gave up in 2018.

In an epic heavyweight showdown at Twickenham, the Chiefs surrendered an 11-point first-half advantage on the way to a 34-37 defeat.

Like Saracens, the Chiefs got off to a blistering start to the season, winning eight games in a row in an impeccable run that included a flawless 40-6 victory over Leicester Tigers.  

The Chiefs would wait until late November to taste defeat in the league, with a narrow loss to a resurgent Harlequins outfit sparking a mini dip in form that coincided with exit in Europe at the Champions Cup group stages. 

Director of rugby Rob Baxter was on hand to steady the ship, once again guiding Exeter to first place in the table with a run that saw them lose just twice between February and the June 1st showpiece at Twickenham.

A comfortable semi-final victory over Northampton Saints confirmed their place in their fourth successive Premiership final, but the result did not go their way as Saracens sealed a second domestic and European Cup double in their history.

Hopes for this season

The Chiefs will be looking to juggle European and domestic ambitions, with high expectations that Rob Baxter has a strong enough squad to compete on both fronts. 

One man whose form will be intrinsically linked to Exeter's quest for silverware next season is new arrival Stuart Hogg. 

After nine years with the Glasgow Warriors, the Scotland and British Lions star is heading to Devon with high hopes of providing the guile and X-factor to compliment Exeter's bruising, abrasive approach.

Young fly-half Joe Simmonds is improving year on year and last year's final heartbreak at the hands of Saracens will have been a valuable learning experience for the rookie 10. 

Scrum-half Nic White is preparing for his final season in Devon before returning to Australia and fans will be hoping for a fitting farewell having earned hero status in his adopted hometown.

Rugby World Cup absentees

Stuart Hogg, Tomas Francis, Jack Nowell, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Henry Slade, Nic White.

Key man: Matt Kvesic

Former Gloucester back row Kvesic earned himself a nomination for the 2018/19 Gallagher Premiership player of the season and is sure to be in the conversation next year.

Having spent most of his early career at openside flanker, Kvesic made the move to number eight last season in the absence of the injured Sam Simmonds. 

In a seamless transition, Kvesic established himself as an indispensable member of Baxter's table-topping outfit.

Packing down at eight, the 27-year-old scored eight tries, made 284 carries and gained 368 metres to put himself into serious contention for a place in Eddie Jones' England World Cup squad. 

England's loss will be Exeter's gain if the back rower continues to over-looked for international honours.

One to watch: Jacques Vermeulen

Vermeulen joined the Chiefs last month on a three-year deal from South African Super Rugby outfit, the Sharks.

The all-action forward, who can play either at lock or in the back-row, has been quickly thrust into the action.

He made his first-team debut in the Premiership Rugby Cup encounter against Leicester Tigers, scoring a try inside the opening quarter at Welford Road.

Director of Rugby Rob Baxter has predicted big things from the Paarl-born forward, who helping his side reach the semi-final of the Currie Cup.

Alongside Kvesic and Don Armand, the Chiefs will boast one of the most formidable back rows in the league.

Upcoming Premiership fixtures live on BT Sport

25/10/2019 - Bath v Exeter Chiefs (7pm, BT Sport 1 HD and Ultimate)

03/11/2019 - Worcester Warriors v Exeter Chiefs (2.30pm, BT Sport 2 HD)

10/11/2019 - Exeter Chiefs v Bristol Bears (2.30pm, BT Sport 1 HD)

21/12/2019 - Leicester Tigers v Exeter Chiefs (3pm kick off)

29/12/2019 - Exeter Chiefs v Saracens (3pm kick off)

Find out all of our games chosen for live coverage across the first eight rounds, with 22 matches being shown on TV before the end of 2019.

Highlights - Sale 20-22 Exeter

Highlights - Sale 20-22 Exeter

Highlights - Sale 20-22 Exeter

Highlights - Sale 20-22 Exeter

Highlights - Sale 20-22 Exeter

Highlights - Sale 20-22 Exeter

Exeter Chiefs extended their lead at the top of Pool Two against Sale Sharks despite a spiri...

Exeter Chiefs extended their lead at the top of Pool Two against Sale Sharks despite a spirited second-half comeback fro...

Exeter Chiefs extended their lead at the top of Pool Two against Sale Sharks despite a spirite...

Exeter Chiefs extended their lead at the top of Pool Two against Sale Sharks despite a spirited second-half comeback from the hosts.

Exeter Chiefs extended their lead at the top of Pool Two against Sale Sharks despite a spirited second-half comeback from the hosts.

Exeter Chiefs extended their lead at the top of Pool Two against Sale Sharks despite a spirited second-half comeback from the hosts.

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