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Owen Farrell fit for Saracens' Twickenham showpiece

Published 27/05/2016

Saracens' Owen Farrell is fit for Saturday's final
Saracens' Owen Farrell is fit for Saturday's final

Owen Farrell has beaten his rib injury to start Saracens' bid to retain the Aviva Premiership title in Saturday's final against Exeter Chiefs at Twickenham.

The England fly-half trudged out of the closing stages of Saracens' 44-17 semi-final victory over Leicester Tigers last weekend after taking two heavy hits in quick succession.

Rugby director Mark McCall admitted in midweek that Farrell faced a race against time to be ready for the Twickenham showdown, but 24-year-old has recovered sufficiently to start at 10.

Farrell's fitness offers a boost to England ahead of the summer tour to Australia, but his and Saracens' main concern this weekend will be their bid to become the first side since Leicester in 2010 to retain the league title.

"Exeter are a top side and they've proven that over the course of the season," said a wary Saracens boss McCall, paying tribute to the Devon club that finished second in the regular-season Premiership table.

"It's going to be a really good game, two very good sides, two hard-working sides going toe-to-toe and we know what is at stake."

If the early part of the week was spent helping the likes of Farrell patch themselves up sufficiently to stand duty in west London, McCall said all focus must now switch to the contest itself.

Scotland centre Duncan Taylor is fit to partner captain Brad Barritt in the centres, while England prop Mako Vunipola will make his 100th Saracens appearance on Saturday, starting in the front-row alongside Schalk Brits and Petrus Du Plessis.

England duo Maro Itoje and George Kruis pair up at lock once more, while record Aviva Premiership points-scorer Charlie Hodgson is primed for one last outing off the bench before retirement.

"Our challenge at the start of the week was to be as prepared as we could be and we've had a good couple of days but what happens on Saturday is the important thing," said McCall.

"It promises to be a great final."

Exeter head coach Rob Baxter has named an unchanged starting line-up from the XV that dispatched Wasps 34-23 in last weekend's semi-final at Sandy Park.

Don Armand starts again at number eight, with England pair Jack Nowell and Henry Slade among the backline threats.

Kai Hortsmann steps onto the bench in place of Thomas Waldrom, who suffered knee ligament damage last weekend and will be out for 12 weeks.

Italy centre Michele Campagnaro is also named among the replacements owing to a hamstring injury to Sam Hill, while Damian Welch has beaten a knee problem to be included among the substitutes.

Boss Baxter remains adamant the Chiefs can cope with the big-game pressure in their maiden Premiership final.

"Saturday is not the end of our journey as a club," said Baxter.

"Yes we are a relatively new Premiership club with a relatively young team, but this is just a step along the way for us.

"As a club we want to be in a lot more of these big games. We want to be a better team in Europe that we are, so this is not the end of the line for us, it's just another step along the journey and that's how I want the lads to approach it this weekend.

"I don't thin k we'll be a team who will just be going there to walk around Twickenham in the sun. We are going to turn up, and I know if we turn up we will make it a very interesting game."

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