Armand ready to lead from the front as Exeter target another title triumph
The Chiefs tackle Saracens on Saturday in a repeat of the 2016 Aviva Premiership final.
Captain Don Armand thinks Exeter will take Saturday’s Aviva Premiership final in their stride as they target back-to-back title triumphs.
The Chiefs make a third successive Twickenham appearance, having lost to Saracens two years ago and then defeating Wasps after extra-time 12 months ago.
Saracens are again their opponents, with Exeter arriving at English rugby headquarters on the back of a 10-match unbeaten run in all competitions.
They will also become only the fourth club after Leicester, Wasps and Saracens to successfully defend Premiership silverware if Armand and company emerge victorious.
“It is the final of a tournament we all work so hard to get in to – it is always going to be an occasion,” England international flanker Armand said.
“The fact it is the final, we are not going to be starstruck by it.
“We have to pitch up and do what we do, and if that is good enough on the day then that’s how it is going to be.
“We will take it in our stride, take the learnings of the last two years – positive and negative – and hopefully make it work in our favour.”
Saracens will experience a first trophy-less season since 2014 if Exeter turn them over, but their pedigree is underlined by Saturday being a seventh appearance in the last 10 domestic and European finals.
“They have certainly started hitting their straps and finding their momentum, but we are also,” Armand added.
“We need to make sure we pitch up and bring what Exeter bring, because we know Sarries are going to pitch up and bring what Sarries bring. That should make a great spectacle.”
Exeter boss Rob Baxter has named an unchanged team following last weekend’s emphatic semi-final victory over Newcastle.
That means a start for 21-year-old fly-half Joe Simmonds – younger brother of Exeter and England back-row forward Sam – with last season’s Chiefs match-winner Gareth Steenson on bench duty.
There are four starting XV survivors, meanwhile, from last season’s final in Armand, hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie, plus wings Jack Nowell and Olly Woodburn.
Armand said: “I think Joe is showing that age does not really matter when you can perform like he is doing.
“He has seen Sam come in and perform really well. I think they are competitive individuals and competitive brothers, and he is trying to make sure everyone does not forget about him, and he is doing a very good job of it.”
Baxter, meanwhile, is relishing the contest between England’s top two clubs this term, confirmed by Exeter finishing top of the Premiership table by eight points from Saracens, who were six points above third-placed Wasps.
“We have had some recent success against Saracens, although we are not so naive as to realise that they probably have not been full strength sides against full strength sides, if you talk about international availability, so it will be a very interesting challenge,” he said.
“I don’t want to say it’s all or nothing, but it does feel like that a little bit because Saracens haven’t been in the latter stages of Europe this year and there is no real reason for us not to say this is a game where we go absolutely flat-out and we can say with no excuses who comes out on top.”