The fierce rivals – dominant forces across the 22-game regular league season – return to Twickenham a year after Saracens chopped down the Chiefs 27-10.
Exeter were defending Premiership champions at the time, and England international Nowell has not forgotten how agonising an experience it was.
Asked if it was the most hurt he has felt, he said: “Yes. Not just in my Exeter career, but playing rugby. Especially after feeling what it was like to win it.
“That was the highlight of my career – winning it with this team. If it wasn’t for these boys I play with, I wouldn’t have been going on a Lions tour (in 2017) or playing for England.
“Losing last year, feeling the hurt and looking around the changing room and seeing the boys upset, crying and pretty down about it, I sat there and realised the year ahead was going to be a different one.
“We haven’t worked so hard to put ourselves in this position to go and lose it again.
“When we lost in the first year (to Saracens in 2016) we were almost just happy to be there. We won it the second year, and then last year we lost, and it hurt a lot.
“We did use that a lot this season to spur us on. We’ve been mentioning the hurt that we felt last year and boys in the changing room being upset.”
Exeter’s 42-12 play-off victory over Northampton secured a fourth successive trip to Twickenham, where they will face a Saracens side chasing a European and domestic double.
“We’ve played each other so many times,” Nowell added. “We know their players, they know us, so it is one that you know what to expect. You know what is going to come.
“It is easy for us to constantly be thinking about them – we maybe did that a bit too much last season. This year, it is going to be very different.
“They are currently the best in England, the best in Europe. Us as a team, if we are honest, that’s where we want to be and where we are trying to drive ourselves to.
“We felt we let ourselves down in the Champions Cup this year, and they are a team that has done it and put themselves up there.”
Exeter rugby director Rob Baxter said: “In our first couple of years in the Premiership, just playing a game of Premiership rugby was an incredible experience and winning a game was amazing.
“The fun element was great, but now it’s not so much about fun, it’s about satisfaction and achievement.
“The emotional feelings and rewards are similar, but just different. It feels great to be in a final, but it doesn’t feel amazing to be in a final.
“It would feel amazing to win it because that’s something we’ve only experienced once.
“It’s different, but it doesn’t mean it lacks excitement or importance. If anything, we are probably a team now who have reached a point where it’s only a really big day if we win it. That’s probably a nice way for us to feel.”
Don’t mess with Jim – Episode 4:
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