Exeter Chiefs issue ‘warning to doubters’ and praise owner Tony Rowe in bizarre statement

Exeter Chiefs issue 'warning to doubters' and praise owner Tony Rowe in bizarre statement
Exeter Chiefs' Chief Executive and Chairman Tony Rowe - Getty Images/Bob Bradford

Exeter Chiefs have issued a bizarre 640-word statement “condemning those who doubted” them while chief executive Tony Rowe rounded on critics who claimed the club were a “fading dynasty”.

Released on Friday evening, with the title ‘Club Statement: Tony Rowe issues warning to doubters’, the document lays out Exeter’s improved performances so far this season. Despite the title, there are no actual quotes from Rowe in the release.

Exeter are currently fifth in the Gallagher Premiership table, two points behind second-placed Harlequins having finished seventh last year. They recently lost the Premiership Rugby Cup semi-final to Gloucester and face Bath in the last-16 of the Champions Cup next month.

The statement begins recalling how exactly 12 months ago Exeter were being “written off as a fading dynasty”, when “speculation was rife on how Chiefs could recover from the perceived blow of losing a number of prominent players including Sam Simmonds, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joe Simmonds, Harry Williams and Dave Ewers. Despite some of that group being in their late 20s and early 30s, those players are also described as “nearing the ends of their careers or choosing to retire”, ahead of “ushering in the exciting prospect of new recruits and home-grown talent”.

What follows is a list of the current players involved in the Six Nations – Henry Slade, Ethan Roots and Immanuel Feyi-Waboso with England, Dafydd Jenkins captaining Wales, Alec Hepburn with Scotland and Ross Vintcent for Italy – before each player is given an exciting adjective: “barnstorming Roots”, “hot-footed Feyi-Waboso”.

It continues: “Jenkins, emerging as a quiet, lead-by-example captain in Chiefs colours was handed the honour by Warren Gatland to become the second youngest Welsh captain in history. Hepburn’s Scottish eligibility sparked inspiration for Gregor Townsend who called upon the Aussie-born prop to bolster his thistle ranks.”

Vintcent has been one of the season’s great success stories, telling Telegraph Sport in an exclusive interview before his first start for Italy in the draw against France about his time spent delivering Domino’s pizza in recent months while combining his studies at Exeter University with play for the club.

The tributes continue when discussing Exeter’s next crop of talented young players, referencing those recently involved with England ‘A’ in a fairly nondescript 91-5 thrashing of a weakened Portugal team – “exciting full-back Josh Hodge; hard-carrying back rower Greg Fisilau; exuberant lock Rusi Tuima and tough tighthead prop Josh Iosefa-Scott”.

Regarding their involvement in that game, the statement continues: “The wealth of knowledge players will accumulate in their country squads will be filtered back into Baxter’s young squad, inspiring teammates to realise with grit and determination, it could be a chance available to them as well.

“The season is not yet complete so with knockout rugby and a tough Premiership campaign to complete, there are still opportunities for other talented individuals in the squad to shine. This young squad has maintained the remarkable record that Exeter hold at fortress Sandy Park, and with record attendances and season ticket sales for the 2024/25 season already surpassing 3,000, the fans are flocking to see them in action.”

‘The world should think twice before they write off the Exeter’

The statement concludes: “Tony Rowe, who has overseen the club through it’s journey from the national leagues to the pinnacle of European Rugby, is right to remind the sporting world that they should think twice before they write off the Exeter Chiefs.”

Exeter notably parted ways with respected media manager Mark Stevens last summer, with communications now carried out by the club’s marketing staff and sports content creators.

Rowe has spoken publicly in the past, notably when Exeter’s finances were called into question last June.

“Thankfully, the club had assets within its business structure that we were able to use to help bring much-needed funds back in to help combat the repayment on loans and address other issues around the finances,” he told Telegraph Sport at the time.

“That effectively helped keep us afloat through some tough trading months, but now as we look to the future we are very confident that next year we will be back in full recovery mode.”

As for Slade, Telegraph Sport revealed last week that the England centre is set to sign a new deal with the club, ending speculation about his future in England with so many former team-mates such as Nowell and the Simmonds brothers having moved to France.

The statement has in all probability been issued to fill the gap in Exeter’s schedule, given the club are now not in action until March 23 when the Premiership returns after the conclusion of the Six Nations and Exeter face Newcastle Falcons at Sandy Park. The club previously faced Scarlets in a friendly at the start of February, in a comfortable victory.

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