TEAM NEWS | Exeter Chiefs vs SARACENS WOMEN (AC Final)
Chances to secure a trophy are something to be savoured. After a narrow victory over Gloucester-Hartpury last weekend, Saracens Women head into Sunday’s Allianz Cup final full of confidence.
It will be no easy task though if Lotte Clapp and her teammates want to secure the first trophy of the season, as they make the trip to Sandy Park to face an Exeter Chiefs side who are the reigning cup champions.
“It’s a huge rivalry,” Clapp smiled. “It’s always good fun going to Exeter, and they always bring their A-game against us. It always seems to be high stakes when we play them and we’re going down there with the intention of getting one over on them.”
Last weekend’s semi-final went down to the wire, with a late try from Clapp ultimately proving to be the difference. With a number of young players in the group, Clapp was understandably proud of their efforts in reaching the final.
“It definitely shows the determination in the group. The intention was to go out and win the semi-final and that’s what we did. It came down to the wire and we had to show a lot of grit and determination. I’m really proud of the girls.”
Ahead of this one, Director of Rugby Alex Austerberry has been able to pick from a largely similar squad to last weekend at the Alpas.
The front row remains unchanged, with Maya Montiel and Alex Ellis packing down alongside May Campbell.
There’s a similar theme of continuity in the second row too, with co-captain Fi McIntosh joined by Sophie Tansley.
In the back row, Sonia Green continues at blindside flanker, whilst Sharifa Kasolo shifts to number 8, as South African international Catha Jacobs returns to the fold.
Leanne Infante and Flo Williams will continue to use all of their experience at halfback, whilst the centre pairing of Cara Wardle and Sydney Gregson will be looking to stretch their legs on the fast track at Sandy Park.
In the back three, Clapp continues on the left wing, whilst Isla Alejandro shifts to fullback, with Lucy Biggs promoted to a starting berth on the right wing.
Amongst the replacements, there’s a good deal of power upfront, with Mica Gooding, Mica Evans and Jeanina Loyola all poised to make an impact, with Sarah Bebbington and Chloe Flanagan providing the additional cover in the pack.
Anna Goddard is the replacement scrumhalf, whilst former Exeter University student Kirsty Exley comes back into the matchday 23, having featured in the group stages. Young gun Katie Johnson will also provide talent and cover from the bench.
Saracens Women have played in their fair share of finals over the years but, with a new crop who are experiencing what finals rugby is like for the first time this weekend, they will no doubt be relying on the experience of the likes of Clapp.
Ahead of the match, she explained that the mentality of her side will be crucial and challenged her side to leave everything out on the field.
“Having the right mentality is key. Yes, you’ve got to make sure you do what you do week in, week out, but you’ve got to bring that dog and that energy. We need to take the ball on as hard as we can in attack. It’s a final at the end of the day and you either win or you lose.”
Saracens Women's Team vs Exeter:
1. Maya Montiel
2. May Campbell
3. Alex Ellis
4. Fi Mcintosh (co-captain)
5. Sophie Tansley
6. Sonia Green
7. Catha Jacobs
8. Sharifa Kasolo
9. Leanne Infante
10. Flo Williams
11. Lotte Clapp (co-captain)
12. Cara Wardle
13. Sydeny Greggson
14. Lucy Biggs
15. Isla Alejandro
16. Mica Evans
17. Mica Gooding
18. Jeanina Loyola
19. Sarah Bebbington
20. Chloe Flanagan
21. Anna Godard
22. Kirsty Exley
23. Katie Johnson