Premiership final preview: Exeter v Saracens (Sat)

Aviva Premiership Final
Venue: Twickenham Date: Saturday, 26 May Kick-off: 15:00 BST Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Radio London and BBC Radio Devon plus live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and App.

Exeter bid to defend their Premiership title against three-times champions Saracens, as the teams who finished first and second meet at Twickenham.

Chiefs, who have reached their third consecutive final, finished top of the table for the first time this season.

Sarries beat the Devon side 28-20 when they met in the final in 2016, but Exeter won both meetings during the regular league campaign.

Both sides are unchanged from their respective semi-final victories.

  • Chiefs and Sarries to serve up spectacular final

Exeter dominated Newcastle in their tie, while Sarries were involved in a record-breaking play-off against Wasps, running in six tries as a combined 90 points were scored.

Saracens scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth is aiming to win a record fifth Premiership final, while winger Chris Wyles and hooker Schalk Brits will retire following the match.

Meanwhile, only four of the XV which started for Exeter at Twickenham 12 months ago are in the starting line-up to face the north London club.

Captain Don Armand, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jack Nowell and Olly Woodburn are the survivors from the win over Wasps.

Wayne Barnes referees his eighth Premiership final, a record for an official, and takes charge of his 200th domestic top-flight game.

Chiefs boss aiming to avoid regrets

“This season has been our most consistent,” Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter told BBC Radio Devon.

“Collecting more points than before and finishing top of the pile is very satisfying.

“But it would really take the gloss off the season and make us look back with a little bit of regret if we can’t play well and finish the job.”

Luke Cowan-Dickie and Jack Nowell celebrate Exeter's victory over Wasps in the 2017 Premiership final<!–

Exeter have won their last four meetings with Saracens, but Baxter says that will not be a factor on Saturday.

“We have to be realistic enough to know that not all of those performances have been against their front-line side with all their internationals,” he said.

“Saracens are a very good side but we have to focus on ourselves and the qualities we want to bring on the day.

“I’ll be pleased as long as we show the absolute best of us.”

Saracens playing ‘best rugby’ of the season

Saracens, who won back-to-back European titles in 2016 and 2017, return to the national stadium after missing out on a fourth consecutive Premiership final last year when they were beaten by Exeter in the semi-finals.

“This is our seventh final in the last five years, so will that count?,” director of rugby Mark McCall told BBC Radio London.

“In fairness to Exeter, this is their third final in a row so they are getting experience and are used to it.

“They have been building every year and getting better but we think we have too, despite a little wobble in the middle of the season.

Owen Farrell, Richard Wigglesworth and Maro Itoje celebrate Saracens' victory in the 2016 Premiership final<!–

“We are probably playing our best rugby of the season and we go into the game with our individuals on good form – and collectively we are too.”

Meanwhile, McCall is unconcerned Exeter had the upper hand in both league meetings this season.

“Everybody knows those games are not relevant,” he said.

“We played them during the international windows. It is not really the same – they know that and we know that.”

Match facts

  • Exeter Chiefs are bidding to become only the fourth side ever to retain the Premiership title, emulating Leicester (1999-2002 and 2009-10), Wasps (2003-05), and Saracens (2015-16).
  • The Chiefs have won their last 10 matches in all competitions since losing to Wasps at the Ricoh Arena in February.
  • Exeter’s victory over Wasps after extra time in last season’s final was their first win in seven visits to Twickenham Stadium.
  • Saracens have been Premiership champions on three previous occasions, beating Leicester in the final in 2011, Bath in 2015 and Exeter in 2016.
  • Exeter have won their last four matches against Saracens in all tournaments, including home and away in Premiership this season and a 43-20 win at Sandy Park in the Anglo-Welsh Cup in February.
  • Saracens have won on their last six visits to Twickenham Stadium since their extra-time defeat there to Northampton Saints in the 2014 final.

Exeter: Turner; Nowell, Slade, S Hill, Woodburn; J Simmonds, White; Hepburn, Cowan-Dickie, Francis, Lees, J Hill, Ewers, Armand (capt), S Simmonds.

Replacements: Yeandle, Moon, Holmes, Skinner, Waldrom, Townsend, Steenson, Whitten.

Saracens: Goode; Maitland, Lozowski, Barritt (capt), Wyles; Farrell, Wigglesworth; M Vunipola, George, Koch, Itoje, Kruis, Isiekwe, Wray, B Vunipola.

Replacements: Brits, Barrington, Figallo, Skelton, Rhodes, Spencer, Bosch, Earle.

Referee: Wayne Barnes (RFU).

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