TEAM TO TAKE ON LEICESTER TIGERS
Wasps’ Director of Rugby Dai Young has named his team to take on Leicester Tigers at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday, kick off 15:15, live on BT Sport.
Captain James Haskell will make his 150th appearance for Wasps when he leads his side out in front of a full house of 32,600 - the club’s first sell out at the Ricoh Arena.
England lock Joe Launchbury is set to make his long-awaited return to Aviva Premiership action after six months side-lined by a neck injury, when he comes off the bench.
Wasps’ starting line-up is unchanged from the side which beat Exeter Chiefs 36-29 at the Ricoh Arena in the last round.
The only changes come on the bench where Tom Lindsay replaces Edd Shervington, who is side-lined by a shoulder injury, while Will Taylor comes in for Jake Cooper-Woolley, who has a hamstring strain. Joe Launchbury takes his place in the squad for the first time since 26 October against Harlequins in the European Rugby Challenge Cup.
Wasps Director of Rugby Dai Young said: “We understand Wasps’ move to Coventry will undoubtedly add an extra dimension to this game against Leicester Tigers given we have recently become ‘neighbours,’ but to be honest Wasps/ Leicester games have for a long time had a special rivalry of their own, regardless of geography.
“Leicester are in the driving seat if you like – starting the weekend three points ahead of us in the table, with their sights again set on the play-offs. We know the calibre of the side we are up against - a club which has made the top four each of the last ten seasons.
“With a top-six finish and European qualification guaranteed if we were to win, you don’t need to look far for motivation. If we were to achieve that, we would then have a shot at the play-offs. First we have to get past Leicester and that is a huge challenge, which has absorbed all our focus this week.
“It’s a huge boost to everyone at Wasps having Joe Launchbury back. We are over the moon for him that he has achieved his goal and is fit to be able to take part in games like this. It really feels like having a new signing. The surgeon and specialists are very happy with where he is. He is fully fit and raring to go. We certainly wouldn’t risk playing him if he wasn’t 100%.
“Joe has worked his socks off to get back. I’m seeing a well-rested, eager, world-class second row who is desperate to get back out on the field. I am sure England will have a dangerous animal in Joe Launchbury during the World Cup and hopefully Wasps will see some high quality rugby too before he joins up with England.”
Looking ahead to the prospect of playing in front of a full house at the Ricoh Arena, Young said: “To have achieved a sell-out in our first season is incredible and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the off-field team for their hard work in making that happen.
“We couldn’t have envisaged how well the move would go or how much the people of Coventry and Warwickshire would take us in and get behind us. We are very appreciative of that and of the commitment our supporters from Adams Park have shown to come with us. We feel a huge responsibility to pay back that loyalty and support.
“I would also like to congratulate our captain James Haskell on achieving 150 appearances for Wasps. He has been a strong leader for us again this season and continues to set the standards within the squad. These are the types of occasions and stages he thrives on.
“It’s set to be the kind of occasion you play rugby for and I am sure both teams will be determined to produce a performance fitting of that occasion.”
At the game, Wasps will also be supporting the Brain Tumour Charity - Wasps Academy’s Charity partner this season. The Club’s Academy players, armed with collection buckets, will distribute 15,000 Ashley Johnson wigs on the concourses of the Ricoh Arena before the game. Fans will be asked to donate a minimum of £1 to the charity in return for a wig and will be encouraged to share their photos on social media using the hashtag #IAMASHLEYJOHNSON.
The #IAMASHLEYJOHNSON campaign, which has been conceived and developed by all 17 members of the Wasps Senior Academy as part of their off-field development programme, aims to raise £10,000 for the UK’s largest dedicated brain tumour charity.
Supporters who are unable to attend the match will still be able to donate by texting WASP88 to 70070 followed by the amount they want to donate, or by visiting http://www.justgiving.com/owner-email/pleasesponsor/WaspsAcademy.