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Chiefs side to face Saracens – LV= Cup Final

Ricky Pellow believes victory for Exeter Chiefs in this weekend’s LV= Cup Final would eclipse the efforts of last season when the Devon club lifted the trophy for the first time.

Twelve months ago the Chiefs made the most of home territory and a bumper Sandy Park following to overcome rivals Northampton Saints 15-8.

On Sunday, the defending champions will take to the field at Franklin’s Gardens (3pm) looking not only to overcome fellow finalists Saracens, but at the same time become the first-ever club to win the Anglo-Welsh crown back-to-back.

It’s another tall order for the Chiefs, but Pellow insists it has been a collective squad effort from everyone this season and success this time round would be even more significant.

"I think if we were to win on Sunday it would be a different type of win," said the Cornishman. "Last year to get that first piece of silverware and to do it at home was one of those special days that people will remain for years and years.

"This year it would be more pleasing just because of the way we have gone about things and used the whole squad throughout the competition. To win it again would show another step forward in our development because this time we’ve had to go to Northampton in the final and beat potentially what is a very strong Saracens squad.

"For me, that would be an outstanding achievement from the players, not just in this LV block, but from what they have all done throughout the year."

As well as Sunday’s final date, the Chiefs also have some other notable fixtures looming large on the horizon, including a last eight meeting with Newcastle Falcons in the European Challenge Cup, as well as five crunch Aviva Premiership clashes, starting with next week’s trip to Leicester Tigers.

Just a week ago the Chiefs emerged triumphant from their semi-final encounter at Welford Road against the Tigers and Pellow believes that result has helped to boost confidence within the camp ahead of Sunday’s showdown.

"It’s been a real pleasing couple of weeks," added Pellow. "To go to Leicester and win like we did was very pleasing. Not many sides go there and get results, but we’ve used that result to build towards Sunday’s game."

Saracens defeated the Chiefs 35-18 in the LV= Cup just six weeks ago. But, rather than be discouraged by that result, Pellow – who takes charge of the team alongside forwards coach Rob Hunter – believes it has shown them precisely how to beat the Allianz Park outfit.

"When they last beat us they were better on the day, but it gives us a really clear picture going into Sunday how we can beat them and how to retain this cup," Pellow declared. "We went in with a game-plan which we executed for 60 minutes and we were right in there.

"They are a good side and they build everything around pressure and that saw us go off script for about ten minutes and they built up the points. That was not what we wanted at the time but what it has done is given us a clear idea of how to beat them and what it takes."

And having reviewed the Londoners extensively this week, Pellow and the Chiefs know exactly what is coming their way at the weekend.

"It is going to come down to who wins the territory battle and who wins the pressure game," he said. "Going up against Saracens, we know that our kicking game is going to have to improve in terms of accuracy and kick-chase.

"What we do in terms of pressure, keeping the ball and playing rugby is also going to be important. Our set-piece was outstanding at the weekend and we will be focusing on that again this weekend."

Indeed, Exeter’s dominance up front against the Tigers was a key factor as they claimed two of their three tries through their forwards. Elvis Taione claimed the opening try, before Greg Bateman added their third score in the final ten minutes.

In between, Tongan international Fetu’u Vainikolo picked off their second try with an interception and skipper Ceri Sweeney did the remainder of the damage with his right boot.

Not surprisingly, the Chiefs have decided to stick with an unchanged starting XV that will be headed up by former Welsh international Sweeney at fly-half. The sole change in personnel comes on the bench where Byron McGuigan returns to the fold in place of Tom Hendrickson.

15 Max Bodilly
14 Fetu’u Vainikolo
13 Adam Hughes
12 Sireli Naqelevuki
11 Tom James
10 Ceri Sweeney (capt)
9 Haydn Thomas

1 Brett Sturgess
2 Elvis Taione
3 Moray Low
4 Mitch Lees
5 Jerry Sexton
6 Ben White
7 Sam Simmonds
8 Kai Horstmann

16 Greg Bateman
17 Carl Rimmer
18 Alex Brown
19 Ed Holmes
20 Joel Conlon
21 Dave Lewis
22 Gareth Steenson
23 Byron McGuigan
 

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