Aviva Premiership: Final spotlight on Exeter says Saracens’ George
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Jamie George insists the spotlight is thrust upon Exeter as Saracens look to summon all their big-game experience for Saturday’s Aviva Premiership final.
The two outstanding teams in English club rugby collide at Twickenham in a repeat of the 2016 showpiece that saw the Chiefs defeated 28-20 after fighting back from a 23-6 deficit.
Since then they have succeeded Saracens as champions, beating their rivals in the 2017 play-offs before toppling Wasps a round later, and finishing the current regular season eight points clear at the summit of the table.
Saracens have grown accustomed to defending Premiership and European titles and George believes that Rob Baxter’s men may now be burdened by the responsibility to perform.
“Exeter might feel a little bit more pressure. We’ve wanted to have a shot at Exeter in one of these big games since last season so it’s nice to be given the opportunity,” the England hooker said.
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“Big-game experience does help, it gives you the confidence knowing that we have done it and been through it.
“We also take confidence from having been in not so good places, like five months ago when we were losing games, we’ve come a long way.
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“So you take a lot of confidence from that but you also know it’s a one-off game and we want to make sure we bring it.
“It’s where we want to be, in the big games. We’ve wanted to get better and we’ve been doing that in the last few years, we want to be involved and keep winning these finals.”
Billy Vunipola has been passed fit after struggling with a hamstring injury and forms part of an unchanged starting XV that has been installed as bookmakers’ favourites to claim a fourth Premiership title.
Saracens’ forwards might well be matched against the relentless continuity game of Exeter, who grabbed a startling 92 per cent of possession in the first half of their semi-final rout of Newcastle.
It is a mouth-watering showdown beautifully set up by the protagonists’ convincing wins in the play-offs, including 20 minutes of rugby that Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall described as the finest rugby his team have ever played.
“Exeter are impressive all round, they are comfortable in their own skin and in the way they play,” McCall said.
“Everybody understands what they’re doing and buys into it and they have got a good thing going there.
“But we think we do too. We have a group who are very comfortable with the way we play and we are very motivated.
“Individually we are playing well, as a team we are playing well and it is going to be a great contest.
“We are well aware that if they get 92 per cent possession against us we are probably going to lose this game. Hopefully that’s not going to be the case.”
Saracens’ long-serving wing Chris Wyles and hooker Schalk Brits will make their last appearances before retiring.