Ricky Pellow has told his Exeter Chiefs side to go and “finish the job” as they prepare to face rivals Leicester Tigers in the Anglo-Welsh Cup Final at the Twickenham Stoop on Sunday (3pm).
Having booked their place in the first showpiece event of the season with a 24-7 victory over Harlequins a week ago, now the Chiefs must look to replicate that winning formula against English rugby’s most decorated club side.
The Tigers, who themselves won at defending champions Saracens, pose the final threat to Pellow and his Chiefs, who will be participating in their third successive Anglo-Welsh Cup final.
In 2014, the Devon club claimed their first major piece of silverware when they overcame Northampton Saints at Sandy Park, but a year later they were unable to defend their crown, going down to Saracens in a close-fought encounter at Franklin’s Gardens.
Pellow knows his side have a great chance to net more silverware, but insists that will only come by producing a hard-working, dominant display against the Tigers.
“Sunday is one of those games you can put down as a memory, but it will only be a good memory if we get the result and we win the game,” said Pellow. “I know we have done very well to get here and people are rightly talking about us, but now it’s about finishing the job off.
“For us, it’s pleasing that we have this opportunity, just because we have worked very hard to get here, but now we are going to have to work even harder to go and rip the game away from Leicester.”
Overcoming the Tigers, however, is no easy matter and Pellow knows from past experience the threat Sunday’s opponents will provide to his side, which will be skippered this weekend by former Leicester favourite, Julian Salvi.
“You only have to look at their win last week to see what type of side they are,” warned the Cornishman. “We had beaten them the week before at their place in the Premiership, but they regrouped well and went to Saracens, which is a very tough place to go, and they won quite convincingly. That in itself shows what a good side they are, so we have to be ready for them.
“Also, they are a team that have been in a lot of finals in the past, so they know as a group how to win on the big occasion. No doubt they will be looking to use all that experience this weekend against us, so I think we’re in for one hell of a game.”
The Chiefs, though, are a side in good form and with a healthy mix of youth and experience across their line-up for Sunday, Pellow wants his troops to continue to dig deep when called upon in battle.
“We’ve been on a roll, but that’s been building for quite a while,” he said. “We’ve some outstanding wins at places like Bath and Leicester, and we’ve been picking up lots of try bonus points along the way, which have pushed us into the top two. As Rob keeps saying to us all, we’ve put things in our hands now and we’ve talked a lot about not letting it go.
“Sunday is a chance for us to put down a marker in terms of silverware, but equally it’s just as important to keep our momentum going. Hopefully, this can be the trigger to kick us on the rest of the season.”
With Salvi set to lead from the front as skipper, other senior stars within the Exeter ranks will also be called upon to use their big-game experience.
“Yes, they will be hugely important for us on Sunday,” added Pellow. “We often talk about the senior guys being like glue for us, both in terms of experience and in their actions. Obviously Salvs as skipper acts as the glue in terms of leadership, but if you watch his game he also does a huge amount on the pitch to glue our overall game together.
“It’s the same for players like Lachie Turner and Matt Jess in the backs, also Ollie Atkins I thought was outstanding last week, so they can all have a massive impact not just as leaders, but from their actions as well. Throughout the competition, everyone has fronted up and now we need them to do it for this one final time on Sunday.”
Team news for the Chiefs ahead of kick-off sees them make a few tweaks to their winning formula from that which saw off Harlequins. In the front-row, international props Moray Low and Greg Holmes both come into the starting line-up, while behind Dave Ewers - who made a huge impact off the bench last time out - gets the nod over Tom Johnson in the back-row.
In the back division, Jack Maunder returns at scrum-half in place of Stuart Townsend, while Max Bodilly’s switch from wing to centre means there is also a starting spot for recently-crowned Premiership Player of the Month, James Short, on the wing.
15 Lachie Turner
14 Matt Jess
13 Max Bodilly
12 Sam Hill
11 James Short
10 Joe Simmonds
9 Jack Maunder
1 Moray Low
2 Shaun Malton
3 Greg Holmes
4 Ollie Atkins
5 Damian Welch
6 Dave Ewers
7 Julian Salvi (capt)
8 Sam Simmonds
16 Elvis Taione
17 Billy Keast
18 Jack Owlett
19 Sam Skinner
20 Tom Johnson
21 Haydn Thomas
22 Will Hooley
23 Tom Hendrickson
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