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Picking a Saracens - Exeter Chiefs composite XV

By Ian Cameron
(Photo by PA)

It’s been over a year since Exeter Chiefs and Saracens last faced off in the Gallagher Premiership, and one suspects that the Londoner’s sojourn to the RFU Championship hasn’t made the heart grow fonder on either side of the equation.

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It all makes for a mouthwatering contest at Sandy Park.

Here we select a composite XV made of the two sides that are lining out this weekend, and despite Saracens’ slightly superior form in the competition to date, the Chiefs edge it eight selections to seven.

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15 MAX MALINS
Hogg, who will be lining out against England’s Max Malins this weekend has brought very decent Autumn Nations Series form back to the Gallagher Premiership, but is just pipped by the superb Malins to the 15 jersey. Malins is the competition’s leading try-scorer with eight to his name this season.

14 JACK NOWELL
Although he hasn’t featured for England since 2019, Nowell has shown he’s still a force to be reckoned with the Gallagher Premiership. Picked ahead of Alex Lewington.

13 HENRY SLADE
Starting to find the form at international level that his Premiership performances have promised. He edges Lozowski, who has found himself regularly deployed in the centre since his return from Montpellier.

12 NICK TOMPKINS 
Another tight call over 34-year-old Ian Whitten, who has been excellent for Chiefs in his nine years at the club. Since moving back to Saracens from the Dragons, Tompkins’ tireless work rate and ability to make things happen around him, win this call.

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11 TOM O’FLAHERTY
Elliot Daly hasn’t played any rugby since the Lions, so it’s impossible to justify his inclusion ahead of the O’Flaherty, who was among Chiefs’ form backs last season.

10 JOE SIMMONDS
Simmonds is recalled at fly-half in the only change to the back line from that which took to the field at The Rec. Somehow not involved in the England 10 debate, although his trophy cabinet might beg to differ.

9 ALED DAVIES
Saracens Aled Davies beats Jack Maunder to the No.9 spot. Maunder has gone under the radar a bit since winning a single England cap in 2019, but remains a favourite of Rob Baxter. Hard to separate these two, but Davies’ sharp form so far this season wins the day.

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1 MAKO VUNIPOLA
Another one of Eddie Jones’ England omissions, despite excellent Premiership form. The Lions loosehead’s omission from the Autumn Nations Series was sorely missed, not least given the hammering they took at the hands of the Springboks in the competition finale. He is selected ahead of Chiefs’ Alec Hepburn.

2 LUKE COWAN-DICKIE
England and British and Irish Lions hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie returns to Chiefs side after several weeks out and makes the cut ahead of Saracens’ Welsh loanee Ethan Lewis.

3 VINCENT KOCH
Mr Bombsquad was a huge cog in both the Rugby Championship and the end of year tour for the Springboks, and would make most world team’s at tighthead – with the exception of Ireland. He’s chosen over the relatively inexperienced Kiwi Josh Iosefa-Scott.

4 MARO ITOJE
A tough call for Scotland international Jonny Gray, although Itoje’s form on the world stage continues to impress, even if he isn’t quite pulling up trees in 2021. Gray’s excellence goes unrewarded here.

5 JONNY HILL
An outwardly relaxed sort, the career trajectory of the freshly minted Lion seems to be one of constant improvement. Saracens’ Nick Isiekwe – who spent a year at Northampton Saints last season – has seemingly fallen out of favour with England, having not added to his three caps since 2018.

6 DAVE EWERS
The giant back row’s effort may not have earned him international honours but this hulking forward’s sheer brutality wins the day over Saracens veteran Jackson Wray.

7 BEN EARL
At the start of 2021 it seemed like Earl appeared to be on route to cementing a permanent role in England, but he has become a victim of immense back row depth at Test level. His explosiveness gets him the nod ahead of the superb Don Armand.

8 SAM SIMMONDS
After a few decent cameos on the Lions tour after a clamour for his inclusion, the compact Simmonds locks down the pack at No.8, having carries his fantastic form into 2021/22. It’s hard call on Billy Vunipola, who it’s become popular to criticise. The giant No.8 has been excellent for Saracens this season, even if he isn’t quite flavour of the month.

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