Wasps set to name strong line-up for Bath clash
Injury and management enforced rest periods brought seven changes to Wasps’ side which faced Exeter last weekend. After being driven initially to distraction then defeat by a Thomas Waldrom-inspired Chiefs’ pack, the value of some of the missing faces became very apparent.
Wasps’ squad has significantly more depth than in recent years, and in some positions there is little to choose between the options available to Young. For instance, Lorenzo Cittadini and Jake Cooper-Woolley are equally adept on the tight-head side of the scrum, while James Gaskell, Kearnan Myall and Bradley Davies have all performed with merit in the second row this season.
However, sometimes there is simply no substitute for experience , while it goes without saying that genuine star quality, as seen in Charles Piutau, James Haskell, Joe Launchbury and George Smith, simply cannot be replicated. Young has to offer some respite to his players this season, such is the intensity of the campaign. If he keeps putting the same starting XV on the field, they will mostly be injured or exhausted come the business end of the season, so his selection choices must be viewed in this longer-term context.
That said, this Sunday’s Bath clash really is pivotal. Five wins would certainly be enough for Wasps to top European Cup pool five, and four might just enable them to sneak through depending on results elsewhere. However, two of their last three matches take place away from the Ricoh, and while Leinster may well be out of contention by the time they arrive in Coventry for round six, away wins in Toulon happen with about the same frequency as dinosaur sightings.
It therefore seems likely that Young will field what he sees as being his strongest combination, with the proviso that he will not risk anyone who is less than fully fit. Joe Simpson will therefore partner Jimmy Gopperth, who is taken to just hold off Ruaridh Jackson’s challenge, at half back, and although outside centre Elliot Daly is the only player who has started every match this season , he seems unlikely to be rotated with the fit-again Alapati Leiua. One further possible change in the backline would see Piutau move to the wing, to accommodate Rob Miller at full back.
Assuming forwards James Haskell and Launchbury are restored to fitness, they will return to the starting line-up alongside Nathan Hughes, while Simon McIntyre provides a loose head option should Matt Mullan require rest.
Predicted starting XV: Miller; Piutau, Daly, Jacobs, Halai; Gopperth, Simpson; Mullan, Johnson, Cittadini; Launchbury, Davies; Haskell, Smith, Hughes.
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