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Racing have scored 7 tries from kick returns, Exeter have scored 7 following a tap penalty...

(Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

The countdown is on towards Saturday’s eagerly-anticipated Champions Cup showpiece featuring Exeter Chiefs and Racing 92 at Bristol. Here are ten match facts ahead of the Anglo-French decider which has a 4.45pm kick-off at Ashton Gate: 

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1. This will be the first Heineken Champions Cup final involving a first European meeting between the two finalists since 2013 when Toulon defeated Clermont.

2. Either Exeter or Racing will become the twelfth different club to lift the Heineken Champions Cup. The Chiefs have reached the final for the first time in their history, while Racing will be appearing in the showpiece match for the third time having lost to Saracens in 2016 and Leinster in 2018.

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Racing full-back Simon Zebo on his Ireland situation, the Champions Cup final and his infamous 2013 Lions fine

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Racing full-back Simon Zebo on his Ireland situation, the Champions Cup final and his infamous 2013 Lions fine

3. This will be the eighth Anglo-French Heineken Champions Cup final with Gallagher Premiership clubs currently ahead by five wins to two.

4. Exeter are yet to lose in the Champions Cup this season (W7, D1), their longest unbeaten run in European competition. Should they defeat Racing it would be the fifth season in a row that the eventual champions have gone through the tournament unbeaten.

5. Racing have scored eleven tries in the 20 minutes leading up to half-time this season, more than any other side, while Exeter have scored the most in the 20-minute period directly after the break (twelve).

6. Racing have scored seven tries from kick returns, more than any other side, while the Chiefs have scored seven tries following a tap penalty – no other club has scored more than two in that manner this season.

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7. Exeter have missed just three of their 40 place kicks and have the best goalkicking success rate as a result (93 per cent). Fly-half Joe Simmonds has the best success rate of any player to attempt more than five kicks at goal (94 per cent – 34/36).

8. Exeter have the top try scorer in the Heineken Champions Cup this season with No8 Sam Simmonds crossing seven times, while Racing’s Finn Russell leads the way for try assists (seven).

9. Virimi Vakatawa (Racing) has beaten 48 defenders, 19 more than any other player and Jack Nowell (Exeter) is one of three players tied second on 29 defenders beaten (level with Leinster’s Jordan Larmour and Lewis Ludlam of Northampton).

10. Exeter’s Dave Ewers has made 118 tackles, five more than teammate Jonny Gray who has made the second-most overall (113, 81 for Glasgow, 32 for Exeter).

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Flankly 17 hours ago
Resilient Irish will test Springboks despite provincial setbacks

The Bok kryptonite is complacency. How did they lose to Japan in 2015, or to Italy in 2016? There are plenty of less dramatic examples. They often boil down to the Boks dialing back their focus and intensity, presuming they can win with less than 100% commitment. This can be true of most teams, but there is a reason that the Boks are prone to it. It boils down to the Bok game plan being predicated on intensity. The game plan works because of the relentless and suffocating pressure that they apply. They don’t allow the opponent to control the game, and they pounce on any mistake. It works fantastically, but it is extremely demanding on the Bok players to pull it off. And the problem is that it stops working if you execute at anything less than full throttle. Complacency kills the Boks because it can lead to them playing at 97% and getting embarrassed. So the Bulls/Leinster result is dangerous. It’s exactly what is needed to introduce that hint of over-confidence. Rassie needs to remind the team of the RWC pool game, and of the fact that Ireland have won 8 of the 12 games between the teams in the last 20 years. And of course the Leinster result also means that Ireland have a point to prove. Comments like “a club team beating a test team” will be pasted on the changing room walls. They will be out to prove that the result of the RWC game truly reflects the pecking order between the teams. The Boks can win these games, but, as always, they need to avoid the kryptonite.

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