5 talking points heading into Exeter-Harlequins Premiership final

·3 min read

Exeter and Harlequins will contest the Gallagher Premiership final at Twickenham on Saturday.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the talking points heading into an eagerly-awaited encounter.

Twickenham a home from home for Exeter

Exeter Chiefs v Wasps – Gallagher Premiership Play-Off Final – Twickenham
Exeter players celebrate winning last season’s Gallagher Premiership final (Mike Egerton/PA)

Exeter will contest a sixth successive Premiership final, underlining their current status as English rugby’s consistency kings. They are aiming to collect a third league title in five seasons, with Rob Baxter’s team also having added a European crown just eight months ago. The Chiefs’ trophy charge continues, while three tries in Saturday’s final would see them break their own Premiership record of 100 touchdowns in one league campaign that they set two years ago.

Great entertainers on the grand stage

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When it comes to entertainment value in this season’s Premiership, Harlequins have proved pure box-office. Averaging more than 32 points and four tries a game, Quins have dazzled many of their opponents, with half-backs Marcus Smith and Danny Care repeatedly running the show. Exeter will not be remotely fazed by the challenge that awaits them, but Quins do not plan on tearing up their licence to thrill as they target a first league title since 2012.

Fly-halves are flying

Exeter Chiefs v Sale Sharks – Gallagher Premiership – Semi-Final – Sandy Park
Exeter captain Joe Simmonds (Ashley Western/PA)

Quins fly-half Marcus Smith and his opposite number Joe Simmonds have a combined age of just 46, yet performances with a maturity beyond their years this season have contributed greatly to both clubs arriving in the final. Smith is the catalyst of Quins’ attacking game, while Exeter captain Simmonds has already led his team to domestic and European glory. Both players look set to make England debuts next month, and Saturday’s showcase is an occasion they will relish.

Exeter’s Jack in the box

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Jack Nowell’s tale of injury woe began last autumn when he underwent surgery on damaged toe ligaments, then hamstring and knee issues stalled him to such an extent that he goes into the final with just four Exeter appearances under his belt this term. Nowell, though, is a proven match-winner, underlining that fact by scoring two tries from full-back in last weekend’s play-off win against Sale. It was a dynamic, seamless return, and his ability to make game-changing contributions is a quality that will put Quins on red alert.

Simmonds to sign off in style?

Exeter number eight Sam Simmonds began the Premiership campaign by scoring a hat-trick of tries against Quins, and he ends it on Saturday after posting a league record 20 touchdowns, being named Premiership player of the season and players’ player of the year, in addition to gaining selection for his first British and Irish Lions tour. Simmonds has swept all before him, and he is arguably the biggest single threat to Quins’ title hopes before embarking on Lions business in South Africa.

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