Braves side to face Saracens
By Mark Stevens
Ricky Pellow has challenged his Exeter Braves side to follow the lead of the Chiefs and book themselves a home semi-final in this season's Premiership Rugby Shield.
With Sandy Park set for last four action next month in the Gallagher Premiership, the Braves will battle it out with visiting Saracens Storm tomorrow (3pm) in a mouth-watering encounter where both sides will be chasing victory.
Heading into the last round of action in the Southern Conference, both clubs know they will feature in the upcoming semi-finals. It is the Braves, however, that hold the advantage, leading the table by three points over the Londoners.
Successive victories over Gloucester, Harlequins and Bristol have put Pellow's side in prime position, but the Cornishman is well aware of the threat posed by Sarries, who they beat 47-24 in their opening fixture of the season at Allianz Park back in September.
"We're all really excited about the game on Monday as it's winners takes all affectively," said Pellow. "We've had a great season so far and our performances, our results and all of our hard work have put us in the position we are now. I can't speak highly enough of the players who have worked so hard for one another throughout the competition and I'm really pleased they are in the mix and fighting for the title."
The Braves are buoyed ahead of kick-off with the news that they can welcome international duo Alex Cuthbert and Sam Simmonds into their starting line-up after injury. It will be the first sight of England star Simmonds in action since he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in the Premiership clash between the Chiefs and Worcester Warriors back in September. Having both players available, not just for this game, but the crucial final few weeks of the season is a big boost for the Devon club.
The duo line-up in a powerful Braves side, which also includes fellow internationals Elvis Taione, Moray Low, Onehunga Havili and Ian Whitten, as well as experienced stars such as James Short, Tom Hendrickson, Max Bodilly and Sam Hill.
Having such talent available is a welcome boost for Pellow, who has warned of the threat posed by Saracens, who themselves will be able to parade a powerful array of talent for the fixture.
"Past experience tells us that Saracens are always a tough group to play, whatever competition you come up against them in," warned Pellow. "Like ourselves, they have great strength in depth and we know we are going to have to crank it up another level from the performances we put in against Harlequins and Bristol in the last two games.
"We've prepared really well for the game and you can see within the group that the guys are not only excited for the challenge ahead, but that they are ready for what promises to be a huge game for both sides. As I said, having that carrot of a home semi-final if we can win the game is sure to add some extra motivation to the guys."
Season Ticket Holders, 1905 Club and Gold Card members can gain FREE entry to the game, which is part of their seasonal package. Admission for all others is £10 for adults and £5 for Under-16s and Students.
Parking at Sandy Park will be available on a first come, first served basis. However, supporters should not parking charges will be in operation.
EXETER BRAVES SIDE TO FACE SARACENS STORM
15 Max Bodilly
14 Alex Cuthbert
13 Ian Whitten
12 Tom Hendrickson
11 James Short
10 Harvey Skinner
9 Sam Maunder
1 Billy Keast
2 Elvis Taione
3 Moray Low
4 Toby Salmon
5 Josh Caulfield
6 James McRae
7 Sam Simmonds
8 Tom Lawday
16 Jack Innard
17 James Kenny
18 Alfie Petch
19 Lewis Pearson
20 Onehunga Havili
21 Joe Snow
22 Sam Hill
23 Harry Strong
Saracens Storm: 15 Matt Gallagher; 14 Viliami Hakalo, 13 Dom Morris, 12 Tom Griffiths, 11 Elliott Obatoyinbo; 10 Max Malins, 9 Tom Whiteley; 1 Ralph Adams-Hale, 2 Tom Woolstencroft, 3 Christian Judge; 4 Dom Day, 5 Jon Kpoku; 6 Nick Isiekwe, 7 Ben Earl, 8 Sione Vailanu.
Replacements: 16 T McElroy, 17 Hayden Thompson-Stringer, 18 Billy Walker, 19 Cameron Boon, 20 Anthony Maka, 21 Henry Taylor, 22 Charlie Watson, 23 Reuben Bird-Tulloch.