EXETER hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie has vowed the Chiefs will bounce back from their narrow defeat against Wasps on the opening weekend of the Aviva Premiership Rugby season, when defending champions Saracens visit on Saturday.
Exeter Chiefs were narrowly defeated 25-20 at Wasps last Sunday and have never begun an Aviva Premiership season with a pair of defeats.
The two clubs met three times last season – including the Premiership Final itself in May – and on each occasion it was Mark McCall’s side that triumphed.
Their 14-11 victory at Sandy Park back in February was the first of those victories and ended a 13-month unbeaten home record held by the Chiefs.
“Obviously we played them a few times last season, including the final itself,” said Cowan-Dickie. “We didn’t have the best first half in the final, but this week we are on our own pitch and we always play better here.
“We know Saracens are a quality side and that they have a number of big names. As always, though, we’ll take a close look at them this week and see where their strengths and weaknesses are and hopefully look to exploit them.
“If you look back at last season we lost at Bath in our first game, where we played well throughout the game and came away losing that game.
“Obviously it’s a negative whenever you lose, but we used the positives last season to do well and kick on, and we’ll be looking to do the same this season, starting with this weekend.
“As Rob Baxter said, a losing bonus point away from home against a solid, top four side is par. The disappointment, I guess, is that we had a chance to come away with something better than that against Wasps.”
Saracens have won their last 11 matches in all competitions since their 13-21 defeat at Leicester in Aviva Premiership Rugby, on 20 March – a run which has seen no opponent obtain a single league point.
Mark McCall’s men have been further boosted by news Owen Farrell’s back injury is not serious and that he is on course for a return to action in “a couple of weeks”.
Farrell suffered a muscular injury in pre-season training and while he has only been able to begin contact work this week with the European Champions Cup and Aviva Premiership double winners, he is quick to dismiss fears it is a major problem that could affect his availability for England’s four Autumn Tests at Twickenham.
Farrell said: “I just tweaked my back in training. It’s no big deal and I will be back in a couple of weeks.
“It is muscular, not structural and it is a case of doing work and then seeing if there is a reaction in the back.
“It is about symptoms rather than a timeline. It is frustrating now that the lads are back playing in the Premiership, but it would be worse if it was going to be longer.
“But I am just around the corner and so it’s not too bad. I am looking forward to getting back playing.”
Sandy Park, 3pm – Live on BT Sport
Referee: JP Doyle (117th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Philip Watters & Paul Burton.
TMO: Geoff Warren.