Round 9 Preview – Exeter @ Saracens on Sunday afternoon

How are they getting on?

Pretty well! Exeter and Saracens are the top two sides in the league on points and their performances so far this season have backed that up. Exeter are coming off three good wins in the Premiership, although a scrappy 10-6 victory at Sale was a rare poor performance from the Chiefs.

Saracens will be looking to bounce back from a shock defeat to Gloucester at Kingsholm. I wouldn’t be too worried about this one as they are so good that you expect them to perform better after a loss. They had a string of emphatic victories before the Gloucester defeat so they shouldn’t be too concerned about form, but they will be anxious to avoid two losses on the bounce.

What to look out for?

  • Saracens missing Farrell and Lozowski – Talented youngster Lozowski was originally brought in to provide cover for Farrell when he was away with England, but has outperformed expectations to such an extent that he finds himself involved alongside his club mate against Samoa. Saracens have a strong enough squad that they still expect to win games when their internationals are missing and Alex Goode takes up a lot of the traditional playmaking duties from fullback, but it will be difficult to beat such a strong Exeter team without their two first choice flyhalves.
  • Who is the best side in the league? – Well, they’re both missing key players but I still expect Sunday to give us the best indication yet of who the strongest team in the Premiership is. Both squads are so cohesive and understand their individual roles to the point that players seem to be able to come in and out of the starting lineups with very little perceivable drop in quality. Their will be fringe players looking to impress and whoever comes away with the victory will assume the dominant psychological position as we approach the midpoint of the season.
  • A chance to impress for new signings/returning injured – As mentioned above their really isn’t much drop off for the players coming in to these sides. While Exeter have lost Henry Slade to England they can call upon bruiser Sam Hill or the multi-talented Ollie Devoto to replace him the the centres, who have both been in and around the England Squad under Jones. The Chiefs also have the luxury of calling Alec Hepburn into their depleted front row, an all-action, sixteen stone, mulleted loosehead prop who was the standout player when England Saxons toured South Africa the summer before last. Saracens on the other hand have the monstrous combination of Christopher Tolofua and Will Skelton, who were both reportedly out of shape when they arrived at the club but look to be getting more and more streamlined as each week passes. This is a worrying prospect for the rest of the league as it’s unlikely that anybody else can boast such a powerful duo in their pack.

Prediction?

It’s usually so difficult to call a loss when either of these teams are playing so I’m really not sure who will come away with this one. Exeter have the luxury of their regular flyhalf Gareth Steenson who is one of the most clinical operators in the league, while Saracens have home advantage and are such a tough prospect on their artificial pitch. I marginally expect Sarries to come away with this one but it’s so close that it’s just a hunch and I can’t really explain why.

 

Author: elstokes

Desperately trying to find a use for all the time I spend watching rugby.

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