Exeter ‘overwhelming favourites’ for cup

Exeter Chiefs beat Toulouse in their first European semi-final to reach the final
Date: Saturday 17 October Kick-off: 16:45 BST Venue: Ashton Gate, Bristol
Coverage: Live radio and text commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Sounds, the BBC Sport app and website.

Former England scrum-half Matt Dawson says it would be “one of the greatest upsets in European history” if Exeter Chiefs fail to win the Champions Cup.

The Chiefs face Racing 92 in their first European final, but Dawson says they are “overwhelming favourites”.

“Everybody knows anything can happen in finals,” Dawson told the BBC’s Rugby Union Weekly (RUW) podcast.

“But if there is one team on the planet that I would want to go to the wire with, it would be Exeter right now.”

Rob Baxter’s side are chasing a double success this season with the Premiership final against Wasps to come on 24 October, and Dawson says they are “absolutely flying”.

“Forwards, backs, interplay, tries, defence, commitment and desire – the whole shooting match is in that team,” he added.

Those comments were echoed by fellow former England international Ugo Monye, who says the Chiefs are “the hardest working team in Europe”.

French club Racing have reached the final twice, but lost to Saracens in 2016 and Leinster in 2018, and Monye says Exeter would be “happy” at the prospect of facing the Top 14 side in the final at Ashton Gate.

“There is not another club side like them with their style and what they bring,” said Monye.

“Exeter will go toe to toe with them and beat them physically for 80 minutes.”

‘Talented youngsters with some steely old heads’

Racing beat defending champions Saracens with a late try in the semi-final, just days before nine club personnel tested positive for Covid-19.

Racing have since returned no positive tests and former Scotland international Johnnie Beattie, who played for three different French clubs during his playing career, told RUW the players feel on the “cusp of achieving something special”.

“The entire team was quarantined in a hotel in the middle of Paris since those [positive] tests were recorded,” said Beattie.

“It is like they are in an international camp and it is completely different to anything we have had before, but these are the Covid-19 times.

“It has been a bit of disruption but with the talent they have, they are looking forward to this final, and have all bought into it.

“It’s a two-week window to achieve their dreams, which do not come around very often.”

Racing boast a side full of international players with Scotland fly-half Finn Russell as their talisman, and Beattie says they have a “real fine mix of guys coming to the end of their careers as masters of their craft”.

“They have brought a level of consistency they haven’t had before,” he added.

“They have reached finals before but they have had a steady level of performance.

“With Finn and this next crop of young players, mixed with some steely old heads, they are going to be a really tricky team to break down.”

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Source – www.bbc.co.uk

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