Premiership Final – Exeter v Saracens – Five Key Battles
The conclusion of English domestic rugby again presents itself on a sporting Saturday for the ages, as Exeter and Saracens prepare to take to Twickenham to determine the champions for the 2017/18 season.
In a repeat of the 2015/16 final, Exeter will be aiming to achieve the same feat their counterparts Saracens did on that day two years ago. The Londoners secured a repeat of their 2014/15 title, and so too will the Chiefs aim to go back-to-back with Premiership championships.
Here are the five key battles we think might determine the winner of the biggest game in English club rugby:
1. Can Exeter keep Owen Farrell off the tee?
Farrell’s ability from the kicking tee is well-known in world rugby, and discipline in and around the ruck will be key for Exeter. Penalties for not rolling away and offside may as well just be giving free points away to their opposition.
2. The struggle of the back rows
Boasting Sam Simmons, Don Armand, and Dave Ewers, the combination of speed, size, power and experience has made Exeter’s back row a force to be reckoned with. The Saracens unit are not to be underestimated though, as Billy Vunipola anchors the forward division.
3. Can Saracens defend the perimeter?
With Jack Nowell on one wing, and Olly Woodburn on the other, teams have to spread their defensive line wide to contain the threat. Don’t forget the fearsome runners Exeter can deploy over the gain line up the middle, however.
4. Can Exeter match the giant Saracens' locks?
The England international pairing of Maro Itoje and George Kruis loom over nearly all who stand before them, and they should dominate the line-out on Saturday.
5. The experienced scrum-halves
The veteran Richard Wigglesworth will handle distribution for Saracens, and the slightly more youthful (but still internationally seasoned) Nic White will spin the ball out of the ruck for the Chiefs. The box-kicking of these two will be crucial to determine territory early in the day, and neither of those teams can win without a strong showing from their number nine.