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European Champions Cup Preview: Wasps v Leinster

European Champions Cup Preview: Wasps v Leinster

The only Irish province still in contention to reach the European Champions Cup quarter-finals are first up on the round 6 schedule as Leinster look to defeat Wasps in Coventry and confirm themselves as winners of Pool 2.


WASPS (2nd) v LEINSTER (1st), Ricoh Arena, 1pm (live BT Sport 1/RTÉ 2fm/RTÉ Radio 1/highlights TG4)

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Team News: Leinster head coach Matt O’Connor has made two changes in personnel for Saturday’s much-anticipated European Champions Cup Pool 2 showdown with Wasps at the Ricoh Arena.

As expected, number 8 and captain Jamie Heaslip has been declared fit to lead the side having been withdrawn early in the second half against Castres last weekend.

As announced earlier this week, the round 6 game comes a fraction too early for the returning Sean O’Brien and Cian Healy. The GUINNESS PRO12 clash with the Dragons on February 15 has been pencilled in as their return date for Leinster. This is also the case for Zane Kirchner and Rhys Ruddock.

There is no change in the front row with Michael Bent, named in the Ireland RBS 6 Nations squad yesterday, again selected at loosehead prop beside two of the try scorers from last weekend – Sean Cronin at hooker and Martin Moore at tighthead.

Devin Toner plays in his 40th European game on Saturday with Kane Douglas in to partner him and Mike McCarthy starting from the bench.

The second change sees Dominic Ryan selected at blindside flanker and Ireland call-up Jack Conan among the replacements. On the openside Jordi Murphy starts his fifth game in a row having returned in November from shoulder surgery.

In the backs, it is as you were with Rob Kearney selected at full-back, Fergus McFadden starts his second Champions Cup game of the year on the right wing and Dave Kearney, the first try scorer last weekend, on the left wing.

Ian Madigan, who kicked seven from eight kicks last weekend, and Luke Fitzgerald continue their centre partnership, while Eoin Reddan and Jimmy Gopperth remain in place at half-back. The final change is on the bench and sees Isaac Boss come in for Luke McGrath.

Meanwhile, Wasps director of rugby Dai Young has made two changes to the team that beat Harlequins 23-3 at the Stoop in the last round.

James Gaskell starts in the second row in place of Kearnan Myall, who picked up a bump last weekend but is fit to come off the bench.

Ben Jacobs has been drafted in at inside centre alongside Elliot Daly, after Alapati Leiua injured his knee against ‘Quins.

Daly, who is set to make his 100th appearance for Wasps, will again be back-up scrum half, as all other scrum halves at the English Premiership club are out through injury. Two back rowers are named on the bench in Ed Jackson and Guy Thompson.

WASPS: Rob Miller; Christian Wade, Elliot Daly, Ben Jacobs, Tom Varndell; Andy Goode, Joe Simpson; Matt Mullan, Edd Shervington, Lorenzo Cittadini, Bradley Davies, James Gaskell, Ashley Johnson, James Haskell (capt), Nathan Hughes.

Replacements: Carlo Festuccia, Simon McIntyre, Jake Cooper-Woolley, Kearnan Myall, Guy Thompson, Ed Jackson, Alex Lozowski, Andrea Masi.

LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Luke Fitzgerald, Ian Madigan, Dave Kearney; Jimmy Gopperth, Eoin Reddan; Michael Bent, Sean Cronin, Martin Moore, Devin Toner, Kane Douglas, Dominic Ryan, Jordi Murphy, Jamie Heaslip (capt).

Replacements: Richardt Strauss, Jamie Hagan, Tadhg Furlong, Mike McCarthy, Jack Conan, Isaac Boss, Gordon D’Arcy, Darragh Fanning.

Referee: Jerome Garces (France)
Assistant Referees: Salem Attalah, Maxime Chalon (both France)
Television Match Official: Herve Dubes (France)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Wasps to win: 10/11; Draw: 19/1; Leinster to win: 10/11

Pre-Match Quotes: Matt O’Connor (Leinster) – “There’s no game inside the game. It’s all about winning and making sure we’re in front after 80 minutes. That’s the only thing we focus on, to do whatever it takes to make sure we’re in front on the scoreboard at the end of it.

“The intensity we delivered last week (against Castres) was important. We certainly went out to put as much pressure on them, to make it as high-tempo as possible, and to keep the ball in play as often as we could.

“There’s a bit of merit in that moving forward because that’s probably one of our strengths. If there are opportunities to do that with momentum, we will try to exert that pressure as well.”

“The set piece is going to be very important away from home. We’re going to make sure we deliver at our end of the bargain there so we can deliver the pressure, gain entry to the game and hopefully get the scores that can bring us the result.

“The ripple effect of 20 blokes injured, most of them long-term, in relation to the bodies you have in your environment and the ability to train at a high level and put out a team with a game-plan capable of playing good teams all changes.

“That was the reality of it. Those were the facts. The guys who played in Europe against Wasps and Castres (in the first two rounds) put us in this position (to qualify). We need to repay that and deliver on our end with a performance on Saturday.”

Dai Young (Wasps) – “Having lost our first two European pool games, few people would have predicted Wasps being in a position to qualify for the quarter-finals, but that’s the opportunity ahead of us, after the players showed tremendous character and will to win against Harlequins at the Stoop.

“It will undoubtedly be the greatest challenge of our season to date, against a quality team which is full of internationals who are experienced at this level, having been crowned European champions three times.

“We are very respectful of what Leinster Rugby have achieved, but we also know it’s a one-off, winner-takes-all game, with a place in the European quarter-finals at stake.

“Saturday’s game will be as close as you get to Test match rugby at club level. It’s a huge opportunity for players to show everyone they can compete on the big stage. There is no shortage of motivation and you can be sure that nothing will be left out on the pitch.”

Current Form – Wasps – (Aviva Premiership): Lost 34-28 away to Saracens; Won 20-16 at home to Northampton Saints; Lost 26-23 away to Harlequins; Won 35-18 at home to Newcastle Falcons; Lost 25-14 away to Sale Sharks; Won 29-22 at home to Bath; (European Champions Cup): Lost 25-20 away to Wasps; Lost 23-16 at home to Harlequins; (LV= Cup): Lost 32-29 away to Sale Sharks; Won 43-22 at home to London Irish; (Aviva Premiership): Won 71-7 at home to London Welsh; Lost 31-15 away to Exeter Chiefs; Lost 18-16 away to Leicester Tigers; (European Champions Cup): Won 32-17 away to Castres Olympique; Won 44-17 at home to Castres Olympique; (Aviva Premiership): Won 48-16 at home to London Irish; Won 30-23 away to Gloucester; Won 41-16 at home to Sale Sharks; Lost 39-26 away to Bath; (European Champions Cup): Won 23-3 away to Harlequins

Leinster – (GUINNESS PRO12): Lost 22-20 away to Glasgow Warriors; Won 42-12 at home to the Scarlets; Lost 10-9 away to Connacht; Won 37-23 at home to Cardiff Blues; Lost 34-23 at home to Munster; Won 20-3 away to Zebre; (European Champions Cup): Won 25-20 at home to Wasps; Won 21-16 away to Castres Olympique; (GUINNESS PRO12): Won 33-8 at home to Edinburgh; Drew 24-24 away to Benetton Treviso; Won 18-12 at home to the Ospreys; (European Champions Cup): Lost 24-18 away to Harlequins; Won 14-13 at home to Harlequins; (GUINNESS PRO12): Won 21-11 at home to Connacht; Lost 28-13 away to Munster; Won 24-11 at home to Ulster; Won 22-13 away to Cardiff Blues; (European Champions Cup): Won 50-8 at home to Castres Olympique

Top Scorers – 2014/15 European Champions Cup: Wasps – Points: Andy Goode 48; Tries: Christian Wade, Joe Simpson, Nathan Hughes, Ben Jacobs, Tom Varndell 2 each; Leinster – Points: Ian Madigan 73; Tries: Darragh Fanning 3

Previous European Meetings: 5

Sunday, October 19, 2014 – Pool 2 – Leinster 25 Wasps 20, the RDS
Friday, April 5, 2013 – Challenge Cup Quarter-final – Wasps 28 Leinster 48, Adams Park
Saturday, January 17, 2009 – Pool 2 – London Wasps 19 Leinster 12, Twickenham
Saturday, October 18, 2008 – Pool 2 – Leinster 41 London Wasps 11, the RDS
Saturday, March 31, 2007 – European Cup Quarter-final – London Wasps 35 Leinster 13, Adams Park

Match Facts –

– The home side has triumphed in all four meetings between the two teams. However, Leinster defeated Wasps 48-28 at Adams Park in the 2013 Challenge Cup quarter-final on their way to lifting the trophy

– Wasps have a perfect record of six home wins against Irish opposition in Europe’s top flight

– Wasps captain James Haskell made 28 tackles in the round 5 win over Harlequins, the most any player has made in a Champions Cup game this season

– Leinster’s Rob Kearney made 153 metres in round 5, more than any other player in last weekend’s fixtures

– Leinster have made more passes any other team in the competition, averaging 157 per game to date

– Leinster have also have forced their opponents into making more tackles than any other side this season, forcing 154 (tackles + misses) per game. Wasps have made the most tackles in the tournament so far, averaging 147 in their five matches

– Leinster has been on target with more penalties (19) than any other side; Ian Madigan has kicked all 19 and is the top points scorer in the tournament (73)

– Wasps have five players in their ranks who have made 50+ tackles in the tournament – Bradley Davies, James Haskell, Nathan Hughes, Ashley Johnson and Matt Mullan

– Wasps have scored more first half tries (11) than any other side to date

European Cup Records:

Wasps –
2010/11: Failed to qualify from Pool 6
2008/09: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
2007/08: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2006/07: Champions
2005/06: Failed to qualify from Pool 6
2004/05: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
2003/04: Champions
2001/02: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
2000/01: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
1999/00: Reached the quarter-finals
1997/98: Reached the quarter-finals
1996/97: Failed to qualify from Pool D

Leinster –
2013/14: Reached the quarter-finals
2012/13: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2011/12: Champions
2010/11: Champions
2009/10: Reached the semi-finals
2008/09: Champions
2007/08: Failed to qualify from Pool 6
2006/07: Reached the quarter-finals
2005/06: Reached the semi-finals
2004/05: Reached the quarter-finals
2003/04: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2002/03: Reached the semi-finals
2001/02: Reached the quarter-finals
2000/01: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
1999/00: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
1998/99: Failed to qualify from Pool A
1997/98: Failed to qualify from Pool A
1996/97: Failed to qualify from Pool B
1995/96: Reached the semi-finals