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Mark McCall cautious of Exeter Chiefs’ young stars

Saracens are not short of match winners, but Mark McCall remains wary of Exeter Chiefs’ ‘gold dust’ as they prepare to tackle the Devon side in Saturday’s Aviva Premiership Rugby final at Twickenham.

Guinness Director of Rugby of the Season McCall spoke of Rob Baxter’s side in glowing terms, singling out England starlets Jack Nowell and Henry Slade for special praise, along with half-back pairing Will Chudley and Gareth Steenson.

Steenson picked up the 2016 Gilbert Golden Boot and was on song with 11 more points from the boot in the 34-23 semi-final win over Wasps, while Nowell and Slade have both been named in Eddie Jones’ England squad for their three-Test tour to Australia.

What’s more, McCall believes Exeter’s team-spirit – reminiscent of Sarries’ wolf pack – could pose a bigger threat still.

“They are very well organised and they also work unbelievably hard and they have a real collective spirit, the way that they work together is something which we admire,” he said.

“On top of that, they have some gold dust, they have some wonderful players in Slade and Nowell and two half-backs which in my view are underrated.

“Chudley has had a phenomenal season, Steenson has been very good, they have got a very balanced group of people and it is going to be a big challenge for us.”

Chiefs have gone from Championship rugby to the Aviva Premiership Rugby final in only six seasons and McCall, who won the Pro12 while in charge of Ulster, emphasised the magnitude of Rob Baxter’s achievement.

Saracens could clinch a first Aviva Premiership Rugby and European double for an English club since Wasps did it in 2004.

It would also be Saracens’ third domestic crown in five years, and while Chiefs appear in English rugby’s showpiece for the first time in their history, McCall was adamant the difference in past success was irrelevant.

“This is the irony of course, because they have come from where they have come from, everybody thinks we’re hot favourites, but they came second in Aviva Premiership Rugby for a reason,” he said.

“It is an incredible story, to do it in the manner that they have, building year on year – they haven’t tried to go big early, or anything, they have just built momentum.

“It is phenomenal what has been achieved by Rob and his coaching staff, when we go to analyse all the opposition, they are the best coached team and the best organised team.

“What Rob Baxter is building there is not going to end anytime soon.

“They made it through to the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup for a reason, Wasps might have beaten them that day but Exeter were 12 points up with 15 minutes to go.”

If you want to be at the world's biggest club rugby final, this year's Aviva Premiership Rugby Final on Saturday 28 May at Twickenham, tickets are available from premiershiprugby.com/final
 

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