Premiership Final: Key battles

Date published: May 28 2016

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Ahead of Saturday's Premiership final at Twickenham between Saracens and Exeter Chiefs, we take a look at two key battles.

Chris Ashton vs Jack Nowell: The biggest surprise of Eddie Jones' England squad to tour Australia this summer was not the inclusion of four uncapped players, but the exclusion of Saracens winger Ashton, a scorer of 15 tries in a season in which he has missed 10 matches through suspension.

The rugby league convert has been told he needs to fix part of his game to gain an international spot, but he will be relishing the opportunity to prove Jones has made a mistake against one of England's current first-choice wingers.

Nowell will be named on the opposite side of the pitch to Ashton, but the 23-year-old is full of industry and rarely sticks to his flank, instead opting to come inside and hunt for the ball.

The Grand Slam winner will be looking to target Ashton's questionable defence, in what will be a fascinating clash of styles. While Nowell will try and be constantly involved, expect Ashton to bide his time before deciding to strike.

Both players have the ability to be match winners.

Brad Barritt vs Henry Slade: Barritt will be required to up his already considerable defensive work rate, while he may also be tasked with providing a bit more dynamism with the ball in hand.

The dependable centre's England days appear after he was overlooked for the Six Nations following the World Cup, but he will be playing opposite one man whose international prospects are only just beginning.

A broken leg – suffered in a match against Saracens – earlier this year prevented Slade from taking part in the Six Nations. And although he understandably struggled for form upon his return, he has now firmly found his groove.

The 23-year-old, who is in the England squad for this summer, regained his sparkle on the ball in the demolition of Harlequins in the final league match of the season, and his defense was almighty in the semi-final victory against Wasps.

Barritt will be wary he needs to neutralise the threat of Slade by any means necessary.

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