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Preview: Saracens v Exeter Chiefs Preview: Saracens v Exeter Chiefs

Preview: Saracens v Exeter Chiefs

Saracens boss Mark McCall admits his side are desperate to right the wrongs of last weekend’s loss against Leicester Tigers by winning the battle of Aviva Premiership Rugby’s top two.

The defeat at Welford Road saw Saracens finally relinquish top spot, with this weekend’s visitors Exeter Chiefs taking over at the summit of the table after seeing off Northampton Saints.

Saracens were particularly hit hard during the Six Nations, but the return of the likes of Billy and Mako Vunipola, Owen Farrell, George Kruis and Maro Itoje will mean a very different proposition is awaiting Exeter at Allianz Park.   

Saracens have won just one of their last four matches, against London Irish in New Jersey in Round 16, and uncharacteristically have lost two of their last three home matches, but McCall has been impressed with the effort made regardless.

“The Six Nations has hit us hard but we're very, very proud of our players. All of them have been integral to it," McCall explained.

“It hasn't been an easy period for us and everyone knows we've been stretched.

“This week it will be great because it will be the first time in nine weeks we'll have some choices.”

Exeter Chiefs’ home win over Northampton took them to the top of the Aviva Premiership Rugby table for only the fourth time, but all the previous occasions have been after Rounds 1 or 2.

The two sides have met on 11 previous occasions in Premiership Rugby, with Saracens winning seven and Exeter four, but the Chiefs were victorious on their most recent visit to Allianz Park – winning 24-20 in Round 21 last year.

And Chiefs boss Rob Baxter has challenged his Exeter players to adapt to a new type of pressure now they are top of the pile.

“What we have got to learn is how to deal with teams chasing us because that is the position we are in now,” said Baxter.

“I don't mind talking about it quite openly – we are top of the league and it is a fantastic test to see if we clam up and stop doing what we do or if we come closer together as a team and it brings the best out of us. It is a fantastic challenge.

“We have to enjoy that and mentally that is going to be a big thing for us. That will be our focus – not being edgy and nervous but enjoying being top and enjoying the fight to stay there.

“I don't think we have got enough points to be in the top four so we still have to be ambitious to go out and score points and win games. We can't start trying to protect something we don't have yet.”

Allianz Park, 3.15pm – Live on BT Sport

Referee: Matthew Carley (42nd Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Ross Campbell & Paul Dix. TMO: David Grashoff

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

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