Premiership Final: Prediction and Teams
EXETER V WASPS: Exeter 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 ten 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 buildup 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 semifinal, 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.”
Recent encounters and Stats
- The last six Premiership clashes between Exeter and Wasps have seen the winner alternate with Wasps recording a 46-5 victory at the Ricoh Arena in the final round of the regular season.
- This will be the sixth Premiership game that Exeter have played at Twickenham (fifth Final), their solitary victory at the venue came against Wasps in the 2016/17 final, an extra-time penalty sealing the spoils that day.
- Exeter have reached a fifth consecutive Premiership final (W1, L3), only Leicester (9 between 2004/05-2012/13) have made it to the big dance in more consecutive seasons.
- Wasps are searching for a fifth Premiership final victory which would see them tie with Saracens for the most titles in the playoff era; the last time they lifted the trophy was in 2007/08, prior to Exeter gaining promotion to the top flight for the first time in 2010.
- Wasps have won 12 of their last 13 Premiership matches (L1 v Sale), averaging over five tries and 40 points per game in that time; overall this season Exeter (3.8) and Wasps (3.7) have averaged more tries per game than any other side in the league.
- Exeter have the best goalkicking success rate (88%) in the Premiership this season, Wasps (81%) are the only other side with a success rate above 80%; individually Gareth Steenson (92%) and Joe Simmonds (89%) have the best rates in the league.
- Stuart Hogg has averaged 86 metres gained per 80 minutes in the Premiership this season, only Semi Radradra (110) and Charles Piutau (103) have better rates; the Scotland full-back made 120 metres in the Chiefs’ semi-final win over Bath, his best tally in a match this season.
- Dan Robson (Wasps) has had a hand in 20 tries (13 assists, 7 tries) in the Premiership this season, more than any other player, including 11 (8 assists, 3 tries) since the ‘Restart’.
- Jack Willis has won 25 more turnovers (44) than any other player in the Premiership this season, it is the most ever recorded since Opta have collected this data (2008/09), he has won at least one in each of his 13 league appearances in 2020, averaging 2.9 per 80 minutes this calendar year.
- Zach Kibirige (Wasps) has made more clean breaks (30) than any other player in the Premiership this season, he is also one of five players with 10 tries in this campaign (also Jonny Hill and Sam Simmonds of Exeter and Louis Rees-Zammit, Luke Morahan), only Ollie Thorley and Ben Earl have more (11 each).
- Gareth Steenson (Exeter) has scored 1,651 points in his Premiership career, six more points would see him leapfrog Nick Evans as the fourth-highest scorer in the competition’s history, that would make him the highest non-English scorer (Hodgson, Goode, Myler).
@rugby365com: Exeter Chiefs by five points
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Joe Simmonds (captain), 9 Jack Maunder, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Sam Skinner, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Alec Hepburn.
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Jonny Gray, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Ian Whitten.
Wasps: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Jacob Umaga, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Tom Willis, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Jack Willis, 5 Will Rowlands, 4 Joe Launchbury (captain), 3 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Tom West.
Replacements: 16 Gabriel Oghre, 17 Ben Harris, 18 Biyi Alo, 19 James Gaskell, 20 Ben Morris, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Michael Le Bourgeois.
Date: Saturday, October 24
Venue: Twickenham Stadium, London
Kick-off: 18.00 (17.00 GMT)
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: TBC
TMO: Rowan Kitt
AFP & @premrugby