Wasps name team to play Exeter in QF of Champions Cup
Robson, Piutau, Haskell and Simpson return as Wasps seek European Cup glory
Wasps boss Dai Young has named a full-strength side for tomorrow’s European Cup quarter final clash with Exeter at the Ricoh.
In particular, Young’s team have been boosted by the recovery from injury of scrum halves Dan Robson and Joe Simpson , who respectively start and sit on the bench.
This means other than long-term injury victims Alapati Leuia, Guy Thompson and Andrea Masi, Young has selected from a full complement of players for the all-Premiership clash, the winner of which will meet either Northampton or Saracens in the semi final at Reading.
Kiwi ace Charles Piutau has also been declared fit after missing two matches with a hamstring problem, and displaces last week’s two-try hero and man-of-the-match Rob Miller to the bench.
In the pack, Young has acted swiftly to address the issues which emerged with Wasps’ lineout during their win over Saints last weekend.
The black-and-golds lost seven of their 19 throws, and as a consequence experienced Italian hooker Carlo Festuccia starts alongside the club’s in-form lineout specialist Kearnan Myall. This means Ashley Johnson and Bradley Davies will be seen from the bench as will Thomas Young, who exchanges starting and bench roles with skipper James Haskell.
Wasps were 80/1 outsiders pre-tournament, but having emerged from a very tough pool Young is now challenging his players to go at least one stage further in Europe’s premier club competition.
“We’re all looking forward to Saturday’s Quarter Final,” he says, “and a fantastic European occasion for everyone associated with Wasps and Exeter Chiefs.
“This is where we as coaches, players and supporters want to be, competing against the best teams in Europe and challenging for honours.
“It has been a real squad effort to reach the last eight and we are proud to have come through such a tough pool to earn a home Quarter Final, but we obviously don’t want it to end here.
Everything now comes down to 80 minutes of rugby this Saturday. This is knockout rugby at the highest level that any player can compete at with their club.
“Exeter have been excellent all season, and they certainly had the measure of us when we met at the Ricoh Arena in the Premiership earlier this season
“We’d like to think we’ve improved since then, but the proof will be in the pudding this Saturday and we know the challenge will be just as great.”
The visitors are also at near-full-strength, missing only full back Phil Dollman.
Australian Lachlan Turner plus England’s Henry Slade and Jack Nowell form a trio of dangerous outside backs, but it their forwards, led by former Leicester trio Julian Salvi, Thomas Waldrom and Geoff Parling that destroyed Wasps when the teams last met in December.
Their director of rugby Rob Baxter wants his team to approach the game with the right mindset, and to attack Wasps when opportunities emerge.
“History says we have beaten them before and we can beat them again,” said Baxter.
“The last thing I said to the players in the team meeting was that I don’t want you to look at it as a one-off occasion and we just go there and enjoy the day because that’s the wrong frame of mind for us.
“The frame of mind is for us to go there and push our game onto them, play to the very best of our abilities and we will take what comes.
“The best way to nullify Wasps’ attack isn’t to defend it. The best way is to attack it yourself, to have the ball as if we are attacking, they haven’t got the ball, and that is a pretty good form of defence.
“I want us to be brave and play, we have good players as well and if we can get the ball into their hands, they can be very dangerous.”
Charles Piutau; Christian Wade, Elliot Daly, Siale Piutau, Frank Halai; Jimmy Gopperth, Dan Robson; Matt Mullan, Carlo Festuccia, Jake Cooper-Woolley; Joe Launchbury, Kearnan Myall; James Haskell, George Smith, Nathan Hughes.
Replacements: Ashley Johnson, Simon McIntyre, Lorenzo Cittadini, Bradley Davies, Thomas Young, Joe Simpson, Ruaridh Jackson, Rob Miller.
Lachie Turner; Jack Nowell, Henry Slade, Ian Whitten, Olly Woodburn; Gareth Steenson, Will Chudley; Ben Moon, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Moray Low; Mitch Lees, Geoff Parling; Don Armand, Julian Salvi, Thomas Waldrom.
Replacements: Jack Yeandle, Alec Hepburn, Harry Williams, Damian Welch, Dave Ewers, Dave Lewis, Michele Campagnaro, James Short.
Referee: Romain Poite
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