The M69 Derby - Wasps v Tigers
A sell-out crowd will greet the first local derby between Wasps and Leicester Tigers at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday and host captain James Haskell insists his side are primed for a thrilling clash.
The two highly-decorated clubs regularly battled each other for Premiership glory throughout the 2000s, but the rivalry has taken a new edge following Wasps' move to Coventry at the end of last year.
In their final Aviva Premiership Rugby game before that relocation, Dai Young's side were downed 18-16 by the Tigers in a gripping match at Welford Road.
Richard Cockerill's men also currently occupy the fourth and final semi-final spot in Aviva Premiership Rugby as they seek to maintain their ten-year record of making the top four. Yet Wasps are firmly within striking distance after an impressive victory over Exeter Chiefs last time out and Haskell is determined to reward a huge home crowd with another triumph.
"It's a massive derby, there's obviously a lot of history between Wasps and Leicester," he said. "It's been ten years for them, we've got a sell out crowd and we're both going for the top four. "It's going to be a huge game and we're prepared for a very physical encounter. They're in the top four at the moment and that's where we want to be and to have any chance of doing that we need to beat them this weekend. "It will be a huge crowd. It's the mark of a successful team. When we sold out Adams Park it was only 8,000 people and now we're talking over 30,000 which will be amazing.
"It will be great if we can reach the top four but we need to focus on getting the result first and beating a very difficult side, which I think Leicester have been. "They struggled at the beginning of the season but they've grown into an incredible outfit who are used to winning silverware but we will do our best to be in the mix come the end of the season."
Wasps currently trail Tigers and Chiefs in sixth place but hold a crucial advantage over the former in having a superior points difference, thanks in part to their league-high haul of 72 tries this season. Perhaps the most spectacular of those scores came last time out through Joe Simpson's sublime solo effort and Haskell admits he was the most relieved man in the ground that the scrum half was able to go all the way.
"Exeter are a very, very good team, they're one of the most difficult to play in the league with their running rugby and physicality," he added. "It was great to get the win and I think there was a time in the game where we caused ourselves more trouble than we needed but to finish it off with a Joe Simpson wonder try was pretty special.
"It was a great individual finish by Joe. He has that incredible ability to do that. I was running behind him and I think I was the closest to him and I just praying he would score because I couldn't keep up and if I did get there I would have been completely out of breath so it was probably the try of the season."
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