Exeter boss relishing Premiership showdown with Saracens

London (AFP) –


Exeter boss Rob Baxter is relishing a Premiership final showdown against Saracens as the clubs prepare to go head to head at Twickenham on Saturday.

Defending champions Exeter topped the Premiership table by eight points, with Saracens finishing six clear of third-placed Wasps. Exeter beat Newcastle in their semi-final last weekend while Saracens thumped Wasps.

"I am kind of really pleased it is Saracens," said Exeter rugby director Baxter.

"Over the course of the year, we have been the two most consistent sides, we finished in the top two, we were the two home semi-finalists.

"There is no real reason not to say this is a game where we are both absolutely flat out."

Baxter looks likely to go with an unchanged team from the one that brushed aside play-off opponents Newcastle last weekend, which will mean a start for 21-year-old fly-half Joe Simmonds opposite Saracens and England talisman Owen Farrell.

Four South Africa-bound England squad members are also set to feature in Henry Slade, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jonny Hill and Sam Simmonds, with Exeter aiming to join Leicester, Wasps and Saracens as champions in successive seasons.

"You don't have to look back to the last three or four games, you only have to look back to the last one (Saracens crushed play-off rivals Wasps 57-33) to see how dangerous they can be," Baxter said.

"We have got to make it a titanic struggle on the gain-line and around the set-piece if we want to get any kind of foothold in the game, but it is always like that against Saracens."

Billy Vunipola is expected to start the final as Saracens continue to monitor his tight hamstring.

The England number eight lasted only the first half of the semi-final victory over Wasps in his latest comeback from injury but director of rugby Mark McCall says he should be given the all-clear.

Wales full-back Liam Williams could return from a shoulder issue sustained against Gloucester earlier this month, but his outlook is less positive.