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Rob Baxter praises 'balanced' Saracens before Exeter host Premiership champions

Exeter boss Rob Baxter believes that Saracens have a "perfect balance" to their game as he prepares for an early-season rematch against the reigning Aviva Premiership champions.

Saracens arrive at Sandy Park on Sunday, where they will face the Chiefs barely three months after beating them at Twickenham to land a second successive English title.

And Baxter is full of praise for a club already installed as front-runners to repeat last season's stellar feat when they completed a trophy double as Premiership and European Champions Cup winners.

"The best thing to say about Saracens is they have learnt to be very comfortable with themselves, which in turn allows them to be very good and very consistent," Baxter said.

"They lost semi-finals and finals in the past, yet they have never run away and thought they have to rip everything up.

"They've always been comfortable in keeping the parts of their game that they are successful with and making sure the whole squad are very good at those successful parts.

"On top of that, they have been slowly adding some stardust, and what I have seen from Saracens this season is that they look like they have done exactly the same again, which is work very hard on the things they are good at, and that in turn gives them a platform from which individual players can create havoc.

"Right across their back-line they can do that, while the forwards can break tackles from anywhere, so it's the perfect balance in a lot of ways."

While Saracens eased past Worcester on the Premiership's opening weekend, Exeter were beaten narrowly by Wasps, yet the Chiefs showed more than enough to suggest they should again feature prominently among the title play-off contenders.

"In a lot of ways, this game is a low pressure game for us," Baxter added.

"I know that sounds a bit strange because we didn't beat Saracens last season - they were the only side to win at Sandy Park, we lost quite heavily at their place, and then they beat us in the final - so in some ways it's a great opportunity to just go and challenge ourselves and see if we are a bit closer to them than last season.

"For me, the pressure on us is to make sure we put in a really good home performance in front of our fans.

"I want it to be one that they can really believe in, and one that we can really believe in. That's far more important to me than anything else in that first home game."

Baxter has made three changes following the Wasps defeat, with prop Greg Holmes, lock Geoff Parling and wing Lachlan Turner all starting, but Saracens are unchanged, which means another opportunity for fly-half Alex Lozowski while Owen Farrell continues his recovery from injury.

Newly promoted Bristol are also in action on Sunday, facing Northampton at Ashton Gate just eight days after they delivered an assured display before going down by two points against Harlequins.

"Everything we have talked to the players about is that we've got to be a squad that is here to win - not to be unlucky losers," Bristol rugby director Andy Robinson said.

"We cannot accept that we can get into a lead like we did (against Quins), and have the amount of penalties that we gave away, as part of what we do.

"You are never going to win a game of rugby giving away that many penalties. We were lucky not to get somebody sin-binned, and we must make sure we manage the referee a lot better."

Bristol are without injured centre Gavin Henson - Ben Mosses partners Will Hurrell in midfield - but Saints are boosted by fit-again Wales wing George North making his first start of the campaign in a team that also includes call-ups for fly-half Stephen Myler and flanker Teimana Harrison.


From Belfast Telegraph