It’s a repeat of the 2016 Premiership final at Twickenham this weekend – here’s all you need to know
Exeter v Saracens Aviva Premiership final preview
Exeter and Saracens meet at Twickenham on Saturday afternoon in what is set to be a thrilling Aviva Premiership final.
It’s a repeat of the 2016 final, in which Saracens came out on top 28-20, but Exeter are the defending champions having triumphed last year when they beat Wasps in extra-time.
Plus, the Chiefs have won their last four matches against Saracens – home and away in the league this season, in the pool stages of the Anglo-Welsh Cup and in last year’s Premiership semi-final.
Exeter have been strong all season in the league while Saracens overcame a mid-season slump of seven straight defeats to finish second. Saracens have certainly added to their attacking game and have looked particularly sharp in recent weeks, but Exeter are known for their ability to retain possession and denying opponents the opportunity to create tries. So it should be a fascinating match-up.
Billy Vunipola, who was taken off at half-time in the semi-final, is fit to start in an unchanged match-day 23 for Saracens while both Chris Wyles and Schalk Brits will be playing their final games for the club.
Exeter have also named the same squad for the final that played last Saturday, with Don Armand skipper and Joe Simmonds picked at fly-half ahead of Gareth Steenson. Interestingly, only four of the starting XV also started last year’s final –Armand, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Armand, Jack Nowell and Olly Woodburn.
Here’s everything else you need to know…
How did the two teams reach this stage?
Exeter finished top of the table at the end of the regular season, eight points clear of Saracens with 17 wins in 22 games. They then beat Newcastle 36-5 in their semi-final at Sandy Park to reach their third successive league final. One of the standout stats from that semi-final was that the Chiefs had 92% possession in the first half!
Saracens, who won 16 of their regular-season games, hosted Wasps in the last four and came out on top 57-33 at Allianz Park, scoring six tries in all and Owen Farrell finishing with a points haul of 27. This is Saracens’ fourth Premiership final in five years.
What have the players said?
Exeter centre Henry Slade: “A large part of the game is mental in terms of finding 5% in how hard you hit in collisions, especially against Saracens, you’ve got some big lads able to win the momentum and get over the gain-line.
“To beat Saracens you’ve got to be good in all areas, they’re a top side, but we’re looking forward to putting our best foot forward.”
Saracens centre Brad Barritt: “They’ve improved hugely (since 2016 final), they’ve justified their number one league position and are a fantastic team with very few weaknesses.
“They’re a formidable opponent but one we are excited to meet.”
Any interesting statistics?
- Saracens scored more tries than any other team in the regular season with 89 and conceded the fewest (40). Exeter were second best with 79 tries for and 42 against. Sarries also scored the most points over the season with 731 compared to Exeter’s 618.
- Owen Farrell is the Premiership’s top point-scorer this season with 213.
- Only three clubs have successfully defended their Premiership title – Leicester (1999-2002 and 2009-10), Wasps (2003-05) and Saracens (2015-16).
- Saracens full-back Alex Goode tops the metres gained charts with 1,845 and is closely followed by Exeter’s Olly Woodburn (1,739). Woodburn also has the joint most clean breaks, with 39 alongside Christian Wade of Wasps.
- Exeter lock Jonny Hill, who is part of the England squad for the South Africa tour, has won more lineouts than any other player in the Premiership this season – 107.
When does it kick off and is it on TV?
The match kicks off at 3pm at Twickenham on Saturday afternoon and will be broadcast live on BT Sport and BBC Radio 5 Live.
There will be plenty of experience in the middle as Wayne Barnes will be refereeing his 200th Premiership game and eighth final, with Luke Pearce and Paul Dix as his assistants.
What are the line-ups?
EXETER: Lachie Turner; Jack Nowell, Henry Slade, Sam Hill, Olly Woodburn; Joe Simmonds, Nic White; Alec Hepburn, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tomas Francis, Mitch Lees, Jonny Hill, Dave Ewers, Don Armand (captain), Sam Simmonds.
Replacements: Jack Yeandle, Ben Moon, Greg Holmes, Sam Skinner, Thomas Waldrom, Stuart Townsend, Gareth Steenson, Ian Whitten.
SARACENS: Alex Goode; Sean Maitland, Alex Lozowski, Brad Barritt (captain), Chris Wyles; Owen Farrell, Richard Wigglesworth; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Vincent Koch, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Nick Isiekwe, Jackson Wray, Billy Vunipola.
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Replacements: Schalk Brits, Richard Barrington, Juan Figallo, Will Skelton, Michael Rhodes, Ben Spencer, Marcelo Bosch, Nathan Earle.
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