England star Henry Slade says triple Twickenham heartache is all the motivation Exeter require ahead of a Gallagher Premiership play-off showdown against Bath. Exeter are hot favourites to reclaim the Premiership title they last won three years ago. If they beat their west country rivals at Sandy Park, then a fifth successive Twickenham final awaits them on October 24.

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Exeter are also driven by the memory of defeats against Saracens in 2016, 2018 and 2019. Saracens are no longer a Premiership item, relegated to the Championship for next season following salary cap breaches that also saw them hit with a £5.36million fine.

“Just because Saracens aren’t in it, no one is going to give it to us,” Exeter centre Slade said ahead of Saturday’s Bath clash. “We have got to go and get it, and that is what the boys have done so well this season and not strayed away from that.

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“We have been in the last four finals, and to have lost three is massively disappointing. The boys don’t need any more motivation than that. We want to win everything we can, and we have got an opportunity on Saturday to put ourselves in with another shot.”

Exeter have never faced a bigger fortnight, with the play-offs being followed by their maiden Heineken Champions Cup final appearance against French heavyweights Racing 92 next weekend, then a potential Premiership final.

The play-off ends a week when Sale Sharks’ climax to the regular league season was postponed from Sunday until Wednesday after 16 players and three staff tested positive for Covid-19, only for an additional eight positive tests forcing the match to be forfeited.

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Slade added: “We’ve been having like a mini lockdown with our bubble. We don’t want to have any players not being able to play. We know how important these next couple of weeks are, and we are doing everything we can to be involved. We are being very careful. We don’t want it to happen to us.”

Up until Wednesday morning, Exeter did not know if they would be facing Bath, Sale or Bristol. Slade said: “It has been different. “We saw it was Bath on Wednesday morning, so we had training on Wednesday and got some stuff in order for those guys.

“Normally, you know who you are going to play weeks beforehand or the week before, so all the analysis you do earlier on in the week you can target the team you are playing.

“We didn’t know who we were going to play, so it was about working on the things we are good at and what we want to bring. We are feeling good. Bath have been on fire since the (Premiership) restart.

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“They have got some really dangerous players right across their team, especially the backs, and I know a lot of those guys from the international side of things. We will have to be right on it. We have been a long time waiting for these play-offs, and now they are here it is a really exciting time for everyone.”

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