Thu, 26 Nov 2020

Exeter Chiefs will hope the shackles are off when they bid to become just the fourth English club to complete a domestic and European double-winning season by beating Wasps in Saturday's Premiership final at Twickenham.

They have already got one trophy in their possession after a thrilling 31-27 victory over Racing 92 in last weekend's Champions Cup final as they were crowned kings of Europe for the first time.

They then had to deal with the uncertainty over whether they would in fact play Wasps in the Premiership final after their opponents returned a raft of positive coronavirus results that has left them without 11 players.

But only four of those would likely have featured in Wasps' matchday 23 and the club have now been given a clean bill of health following a fresh round of testing.

Exeter were unusually open in defence while conceding four tries against Racing in a victory that came just 10 years after the Chiefs were promoted to the English top-flight.

But director of rugby Rob Baxter hopes they have got those lapses out of their system for what will be a repeat of the 2017 Premiership final, where the Chiefs beat Wasps in extra-time.

"I would like to think not playing as well as we could will free us up against Wasps and we can play better," he said.

Exeter's renowned driving maul was in good order against Racing, setting up a couple of tries, with skipper Joe Simmonds in fine form with the boot, including a decisive last-minute penalty.

'Beyond winning trophies'

Baxter, often spoken of as a future England coach, already has other ambitions for his side in addition to joining Saracens, Wasps and Leicester as double winners.

"There are loads of things that go beyond winning trophies that are exciting and show the development of the club. I want to see the kind of career that Joe Simmonds can have and Sam Simmonds can have and Jack Maunder and Stu Townsend and some of the younger players we have got here, some of the careers they can have over the next 10 years.

"Can they take the club to heights we haven't achieved even yet as far as our consistency and where we can be in Europe and the Premiership?"

Meanwhile Wasps counterpart Lee Blackett hopes the relief his side, led by England lock Joe Launchbury, feel at being involved in the final after all will free them up to play their best rugby.

"It has added to the emotion and the build-up and when you feel like it has been taken away from you so cruelly, when you get the opportunity to get it back, it will make it even more special," said Blackett.

Wasps overwhelmed Bristol 47-24 in their semi-final, with Italy's Matteo Minozzi one of their five try-scorers.

But they only returned to training on Wednesday.

"It's not ideal preparation, it might make us a bit fresher, Exeter played a really physical game and we have had two weeks' rest - we wouldn't have wanted it, but we have had it," said Blackett.

"We will be in a good position. You will see when our team gets announced. It's a good team."

Source: News24

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