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Wasps vs Leinster Rugby
Heineken Champions Cup, Pool A
Ricoh Arena, Coventry
Sunday, 20th January 2019, 15:15

TV: Live on BT Sports

That was the sort of match that makes you glad you're a Leinster fan!

Leinster players, coaches and fans all went into last week's match with some genuine trepidation on the back of the myriad injuries and Toulouse's recent fine form. It was a rare feeling to be going into a home match with a genuine flutter of nerves in the belly but it made for a great atmosphere as the RDS was packed well before kick-off. But Leinster deployed the perfect gameplan battering the Toulouse pack into submission and denying their dangerous backs any decent ball. By the end they had earned a bonus point win and left Toulouse knowing they've still a long way to go before they can be champions.

But Leinster still have one more game to win before they are confirmed as group winners with a home quarter-final. They travel to face Wasps in the Ricoh Arena on Sunday afternoon knowing they need at least two points to top the pool as Toulouse are almost guaranteed to get a bonus point win over Bath at home. A win of any sort will guarantee Leinster a home quarter-final but they will need either Racing or Saracens to drop points for them to get a top 2 seed. However the Wasps game is the business at hand and this can't be taken lightly.

Yes Wasps are having a fairly terrible season, they've lost four and drawn one in Europe and are in sixth place in the Premiership with just six wins from twelve games. They have been saddled for a while with stories of financial problems behind the scenes that have been denied. However these stories seemed to gain traction with the news that star players like Nathan Hughes and Willie La Roux are leaving at the end of the season and Eliot Daly has been strongly linked with a move to Saracens. However All Blacks Malakai Fekitoa and Jeffery Toomaga-Allen have been signed for next season so the bailiffs mightn't be at the door just yet. Wasps still have a talented team and though they've nothing to play for, that didn't stop them in the same situation last season when they beat Ulster comfortably to deny them qualification even though the home side had nothing to play for. And Wasps will still be smarting from the 52-3 humiliation they suffered at the RDS back in October and if nothing else they'll want to atone for such a weak performance.

In Dai Young they have a remarkable coach with the charmed life who always keeps his job no matter how how much his teams fail. He's been wailing to the press all week saying how can he compete with Irish kids by only spending millions of pounds on expensive imports. The poor lamb has named a side that sees the return of Elliot Daly to the starting line-up. Daly returns on the left wing while Gaby Lovobalavu is handed his first Wasps start since November in the centre in place of the injured Juan de Jongh. Thomas Young, who's been their form player of the season, is also out injured and is replaced by Nizaam Carr with Jake Cooper-Woolley replacing Will Stuart at tighthead prop.

For Leo Cullen he's now without both his first choice half-backs as Luke McGrath's knee injury last week sees him join Johnny Sexton on the injured list. So Jamison Gibson-Park comes in to start alongside Ross Byrne who was omitted from the Ireland squad this week despite playing so well against Toulouse. The only other changes to the backline sees the welcome return of Robbie Henshaw at inside centre after injury.

In the pack there are just two changes to the front five as Jack McGrath comes in for a rather unexpected start in place of Cian Healy and Devin Toner returns from injury to start in the second row in favour of Scott Fardy. Rhys Ruddock continues as captain and Sean O'Brien will make his first appearance for Leinster since October if he comes on from the bench and Academy scrumhalf Hugh O'Sullivan will also make his European debut if he gets on.

Wasps will be up for it and it should be competitive enough at the start. However Leinster just need to grind them down and hopefully they'll lose interest before the end to give Leinster a comfortable enough win.

Team Lineups

Wasps

Leinster Rugby
Teams Rob Miller 15 Jordan Larmour
Josh Bassett 14 Adam Byrne
Michele Campagnaro 13 Garry Ringrose
Gaby Lovobalavu 12 Robbie Henshaw
Elliot Daly 11 Dave Kearney
Lima Sopoaga 10 Ross Byrne
Dan Robson 9 Jamison Gibson-Park

Zurabi Zhvania 1 Jack McGrath
Tom Cruse 2 Sean Cronin
Jake Cooper-Woolley 3 Tadhg Furlong
Joe Launchbury (C) 4 Devin Toner
Will Rowlands 5 James Ryan
Brad Shields 6 Rhys Ruddock (C)
Nizaam Carr 7 Josh van der Flier
Nathan Hughes 8 Jack Conan

Replacements Ashley Johnson 16 James Tracy
Ben Harris 17 Cian Healy
Will Stuart 18 Andrew Porter
Charlie Matthews 19 Scott Fardy
Ben Morris 20
Sean O'Brien
Craig Hampson 21 Hugh O'Sullivan
Billy Searle 22 Noel Reid
Marcus Watson 23 Rory O'Loughlin

Not Considered
due to Injury
Thomas Young,
Juan de Jongh,
Joe Simpson,
James Gaskell,
Tommy Taylor,
Simon McIntyre

Will Connors,
Fergus McFadden,
Joe Tomane,
Nick McCarthy,
Hugo Keenan,
Rob Kearney,
Jonathan Sexton,
Dan Leavy,
Luke McGrath
Officials Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland),
Assistant Referees: Lloyd Linton (Scotland), Keith Allen (Scotland),
TMO: Neil Paterson (Scotland)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2019-01-18

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