WASPS turn their attention towards Exeter
Wasps’ boss Dai Young has half an eye on the big picture as he ponders selection options for Saturday’s Ricoh Arena clash with high-flying Exeter. Such is the compressed nature of this post-World Cup English season, that one big match follows relentlessly on the heels of its predecessor in a near-seamless sequence.
For the fans this is tremendously exciting, as the irrelevant and unloved Anglo-Welsh Cup which padded out recent seasons was firstly replaced by a World Cup, then by an unbroken sequence of high-octane Aviva Premiership and European matches.
However, the players are being physically and mentally challenged as never before. Those who were part of the World Cup began their seasons in June, a full year before England’s test matches in Australia close the campaign. The avoidance of burnout is therefore a big consideration for clubs, who correctly view players are their most-prized asset. Meanwhile, the administrators responsible for scheduling the season are driven by a different agenda, namely cash generation for reinvestment in infrastructure, so this particular circle seems unlikely to ever be squared off.
Against this background, Young must select a side to beat Rob Baxter’s second-placed Exeter Chiefs. This comes seven days after Wasps were forced to dig very deep to beat bottom-ranked London Irish , in what was supposedly the easiest part of a six-week sequence featuring European clashes with Leinster, Toulon and a Bath double-header.
The historic Toulon win came at the cost of Carlo Festuccia and Christian Wade joining Andrea Masi and Alapati Leiua on the long-term injury list. On a more positive note, with summer signing James Johnston now nearing full fitness, Joe Launchbury’s hamstring strain is Young’s only other injury worry. Resting players at all, let alone against the Premiership’s most-improved club, goes somewhat against the grain for rugby traditionalists.
However, to avoid Wasps’ season grinding to a halt in the spring, Young simply cannot ignore what his conditioning experts and his own logic tells him. Props Simon McIntyre and Lorenzo Cittadini made an impressive impact from the bench against the Exiles, and may swap roles with Matt Mullan and Jake Cooper-Woolley on Saturday. Assuming Launchbury’s hamstring requires further rest, Bradley Davies and Kearnan Myall also seem likely to exchange bench and starting jerseys alongside James Gaskell in the second row. James Gaskell looks set to keep his place in the second row George Smith will return in the back row, presumably at the expense of the impressive Thomas Young.
Such is Smith’s proven ability, he could also stand in for either James Haskell or Nathan Hughes, should Young wish to rest either of his talisman, so Sam Jones’ 100th Wasps appearance seems likely to come from the bench. Jimmy Gopperth looked fresh and hungry for action when returning from his three-match suspension to control the last 30 minutes at Twickenham, and he may get a start at fly half, while Dan Robson is due another opportunity in the No.9 shirt . Fit-again Rob Miller provides the obvious option should Young wish to change the back three, although this seems unlikely.
Predicted starting XV: Piutau; Tagicakibau,Daly, Jacobs, Halai; Gopperth, Robson; McIntyre, Johnson, Cittadini; Gaskell, Davies; Haskell, Smith, Hughes
You may also like
Posted on November 30th, 2015
Posted on December 1st, 2015
Posted on November 26th, 2015