16th June 2015
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The Devon club posted their best-ever finish in the Aviva Premiership last term, narrowly missing out on the end of season play-offs by virtue of an inferior points difference.

At the same time, Rob Baxter’s side reached a first-ever European semi-final, as well as being edged out right at the death by rivals Saracens in their attempts to defend their LV= Cup crown.

It was – according to Johnson – a season filled with plenty of positives and the England international feels the arrival of internationals such as Geoff Parling and Michele Campagnaro, as well as seasoned top flight performers such as Julian Salvi and Olly Woodburn, can help to propel the Chiefs onto another level.

“I think with the people Rob has brought in to strengthen the squad - and with their quality too – then then we can do even better next season,” said the 32-year-old forward.

“Next season we will have the European Champions Cup, which will test us a lot, but there are players coming in who are used to top-four finishes and playing in the latter stages of competitions.

“That experience should help us a lot as a team and see us go one better than last season.”

With standards rising by the season at the Chiefs, Johnson – who has now amassed 185 appearances for the club, scoring 27 tries in the process – knows the competition for places is set to intensify even further when the squad report back for pre-season in just a few weeks.

Johnson added: “It will be a fight for places next season, but it is going to be a long hard season with a lot of tough games. That in itself is going to need a big squad, and if the season goes well, I think you’ll see a lot of the boys playing a lot of minutes. We will have big games every week without much let-up.”

Already a number of the squad, Johnson included, have returned to light pre-season training, working on individual programmes to get themselves up and running before Baxter brings his full contingent in for day one of the new campaign.

And already Johnson is relishing the upcoming season having missed a large proportion of last term having undergone surgery on a troublesome neck injury.

The all-action forward, who was restricted to just seven appearances during the 2014/15 season, hopes an uninterrupted pre-season will allow him to get up to speed and ready for the rigours of what will be Exeter’s sixth year in the Premiership.

“It will be nice to have a full pre-season this time,” he continued. “We get a bit longer this coming season because of the World Cup too, so I think all the players will be really keen to play when the season starts.

“Games will be coming thick and fast when it does kick off, but it means a slightly longer pre-season to get the body slightly better conditioned for the task in hand.”

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Dave B

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