LV= Cup preview: Exeter v Saracens

Date published: March 20 2015

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Saracens will be looking to wrestle the LV= Cup from Exeter's grasp when the pair collide at Franklin's Gardens in Sunday's intriguing final on Sunday.

The pair defeated Northampton and Leicester respectively in their semi-finals, with Saracens winning at home while the Chiefs conquered Welford Road.

Surprisingly they refrained from using their big guns in those wins and credit to the coaches for backing their youngsters, who didn't let them down. The likes of Saracens flanker Matt Hankin, lock Maro Itoje and Exeter full-back Max Bodilly stood out, as did the Chiefs scrum, especially late on against the Tigers.

One can't not be impressed with what Rob Baxter and his staff have done at the Chiefs. Promoted to the English top flight in 2009, they're now a Premiership heavyweight and pushing hard for second place in the regular-season. They are also very much in the Challenge Cup frame, with a home quarter-final to come.

Exeter have decided to give their so-called second-string another chance on the big stage this week, as Ceri Sweeney continues at fly-half, whilst the likes of Adam Hughes, Kai Horstmann, Sam Simmonds, Jerry Sexton, Elvis Taione and more run out for a chance to lift silverware.

"It's been a real pleasing couple of weeks," said Chiefs coach Ricky Pellow ahead of the final.

"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."

The Chiefs will take on a Saracens side that remains unbeaten in this season's competition and they have opted for a familiar looking side, making only one change to the team that beat the Saints in last weekend’s semi-final victory.

With Rhys Gill away on international duty with Wales, Richard Barrington is promoted to loosehead prop in Saracens solitary starting XV change. Barrington packs down alongside Jared Saunders and Juan Figallo in the front-row.

The ever-improving Maro Itoje will captain the side from lock forward, and is joined by USA international Hayden Smith in front of a strong back-row trio of Nick de Jager, Hankin and number eight Ernst Joubert. Kelly Brown is on the bench.

Ben Spencer continues alongside Nils Mordt in the halves, whilst Tim Streather and Marcelo Bosch are the centres.

Mike Ellery continues on the right wing with David Strettle named on the opposite flank. Ben Ransom starts at full-back.

Prediction: Expect a tight final between these two in-form Premiership sides, with set-piece pivotal in how this plays out. We just think the Chiefs hold a slight edge on the bench which could be the difference late on. Exeter by 3 points!

The teams:

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Max Bodilly, 14 Fetu’u Vainikolo, 13 Adam Hughes, 12 Sireli Naqelevuki, 11 Tom James, 10 Ceri Sweeney (c), 9 Haydn Thomas, 8 Kai Horstmann, 7 Sam Simmonds, 6 Ben White, 5 Jerry Sexton, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Moray Low, 2 Elvis Taione, 1 Brett Sturgess.
Replacements: 16 Greg Bateman, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Alex Brown, 19 Ed Holmes, 20 Joel Conlon, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Byron McGuigan.

Saracens: 15 Ben Ransom, 14 Mike Ellery, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Tim Streather, 11 David Strettle, 10 Nils Mordt, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Matt Hankin, 6 Nick de Jager, 5 Hayden Smith, 4 Maro Itoje (c), 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Jared Saunders, 1 Richard Barrington.
Replacements: 16 Scott Spurling, 17 Titi Lamositele, 18 Biyi Alo, 19 George Kruis, 20 Kelly Brown, 21 Tom Whiteley, 22 Alex Goode, 23 Catalin Fercu.

Date: Sunday, March 22
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant referees: Neil Hennessy (Wales), Jon Mason (Wales)
Television match official: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)

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