Exeter Chiefs v Saracens, Aviva Premiership, Sandy Park, April 16
Saracens look to keep the pressure on
April 15, 2011
Luke Arscott sucks in the Saracens defence during their clash at Vicarage Road back in October © Getty Images
Exeter will look to guarantee their Aviva Premiership status with a notable double over title-chasing Saracens at Sandy Park on Saturday.
The Chiefs scored a shock
That key victory has eluded them in recent weeks, most recently last weekend when Bath claimed a 26-18 success at The Rec. That was the Chiefs' third Premiership loss in a row but they are sure to take comfort from a return home where they have won six of their nine outings.
Saracens enter the game having won their last seven Premiership matches including victories over title rivals Leicester and Northampton - a run of results that leave them three points behind the Tigers at the top of the table. Their most recent success was a 20-9 victory over Bath a fortnight ago and they have since enjoyed a break in the Florida sunshine.
Exeter - Player to Watch: Can captain and lock Tom Hayes rally his side after a difficult couple of weeks and inspire a priceless victory?
Exeter - Team News: Lock James Hanks has recovered from the shoulder injury which has sidelined him for the past two weeks and comes back into the second row in place of Samoan international Chad Slade, who drops to the bench at the expense of Dave Gannon. The other change in personnel see prop Chris Budgen return to the match-day 23 after missing out at Bath last week, Argentine forward Ignacio Elosu is the man to step aside.
Saracens - Player to Watch: David Strettle lit up an otherwise dull encounter with Bath earlier this month by finishing off a fine Sarries attack in scintillating style. More of the same in the closing stages of the season could yet see the winger force his way into Martin Johnson's thinking.
Saracens - Team News: Steve Borthwick has been ruled out with a minor shoulder problem so Mouritz Botha will start alongside Hayden Smith in the second row. In the only other change to the side which defeated Bath last time out, Jacques Burger is preferred to Andy Saull at openside flanker.
Key Battle: Saracens boast a formidable front-row trio of Matt Stevens, Schalk Brits and Carlos Nieto and after giving Bath at torrid time in the set-piece at Vicarage Road a fortnight ago, they will fancy their chances of a repeat performance at Sandy Park.
Trivia: Saracens have scored just 27 tries in the Premiership this season - half of that scored by league leader Leicester.
Stats: Saracens have won eight successive matches since their 24-14 Heineken Cup defeat to Clermont Auvergne on January 21.
"A"Anything that means that points we have worked and fought hard for could get taken away from the club is obviously very frustrating for them." - Exeter boss Richard Baxter apologises to his players over the Nemani Nadolo case that could cost them a points deduction.
"At this stage of the season, the difference between winning and losing games can literally be a matter of inches and if a trip to Miami is what we need to gain those extra inches, then that is what we have to do." - Saracens chief executive Edward Griffiths talking ahead of his side's trip to Florida
Fantasy: Saracens winger David Strettle bagged his fourth Premiership try of the season last time out and if you fancy him for a few more in the season run-in then he needs to be in your ESPNscrum Fantasy Rugby Game line-up.
Prediction: Saracens to extend Exeter's agony and keep the pressure on the Tigers - but results elsewhere to guarantee the Chiefs' survival.
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