Rob Baxter says he has to plan for England wing Jack Nowell not being part of the Exeter squad next season.
Nowell, who has enjoyed a successful 10-year career at Exeter, is out of contract with Chiefs at the end of this term.
And he has been strongly linked with a move to France, following Chiefs team-mates Luke Cowan-Dickie and Sam Simmonds, who will join Top 14 champions Montpellier after the World Cup later this year.
While Exeter rugby director Baxter says nothing has yet been decided on 29-year-old Nowell’s club future, it would appear a Sandy Park exit is likely.
Asked if he was planning to be without Nowell next season, Baxter said: “Yes. I’ve got to plan that he won’t be here. That’s the current situation.
“With Jack, it has been very open in all the conversations. There haven’t been any problems.
“I am not asking Jack every day what is going on and he is not asking me every day what is going on.
“The agreement we’ve got is that if I find a replacement player who I like the look of, we are going to sign them. He is aware of that. Jack is currently looking in the market of what he wants to look at.
“If he comes back to me pre us signing anybody, we can talk. If he comes back post us signing someone who has replaced him and the salary cap room is not there, then it’s not there.
“It is a very open scenario. I am assuming he is not here and I think he is assuming he’s going.
“As much as there is no contract been signed – and there is no definitive answer for you – we are moving on. If that answers your question, that’s all I can say.
“If ‘Nowellsy’ turns around to me, walks up and says ‘go on then Rob, let’s sit down and try and get a contract’, then I would be delighted.”
Nowell, who is closing in on 50 England caps, made his Exeter debut in 2012 and has clocked up more than 150 appearances.
He became the Chiefs’ first British and Irish Lion when he was selected for the New Zealand tour five years later and he has helped Exeter win Premiership and European titles.