Preview: Leicester v Wasps

Date published: October 30 2015

New signing Opeti Fonua is included in the Leicester Tigers starting line-up for the first time in Sunday's Premiership clash with Wasps.

Tongan number eight Fonua, signed from London Welsh in the summer, made his debut as a replacement in the win at London Irish in Round 1 and is now due to run out on home turf for the first time.

England prop Dan Cole makes his first start since the Rugby World Cup alongside international team-mate Tom Youngs and Fraser Balmain in the front-row.

New arrival Telusa Veainu is included among the replacements after starring with Tonga at the World Cup and there are also places in the matchday squad for scrum-half Jono Kitto, signed from club rugby in New Zealand this summer, and former Newcastle Falcons lock Dom Barrow who has recovered from a knee injury suffered towards the end of last season.

Jordan Crane also returns to the matchday squad after recovery from a knee injury.

Meanwhile, Wasps boss Dai Young has already stressed the importance of the depth of squad this season, which sees a minimum of 28 games in succession. 

Dan Robson is handed his first Premiership start for Wasps at scrum-half, after Joe Simpson ran out in the nine shirt for Wasps' first two games.

Kearnan Myall makes his first start of the season, alongside Joe Launchbury in the second-row. Bradley Davies is set to provide reinforcement from the bench, having returned after a week off following Wales' Rugby World Cup campaign.

The front-row and back-row remain unchanged from the starting line-up against Bath.

Ruaridh Jackson lines up at full-back in place of Rob Miller, who picked up a hamstring injury against Bath. Alex Lozowski provides cover for 10 and 15 on the bench.

After Ben Jacobs strained his knee last weekend, James Downey starts at inside centre, in a backline also featuring Elliot Daly, Christian Wade, Frank Halai and Jimmy Gopperth.

"We were pleased to get the win at home last Saturday against Bath, but we also know, despite it being a pretty good performance, that we need to be more ruthless and clinical. We are still a work in progress and have a lot of improvements to make, but we feel we are moving in the right direction," said Young.

"Playing Leicester Tigers at Welford Road is one of the toughest challenges a Premiership side will face. Since I've been at Wasps, we haven’t yet managed to sneak a win there and we’re not alone in that. There aren’t many teams that have won consistently at Welford Road. That’s one of the reasons Leicester have been so successful over as many years as it’s possible to remember. 

"We know we're going to have to be somewhere near our best on Sunday if we are to get the result we want, but there is no reason why we can’t be. I'm confident that, if we play to our potential, we can go there and win, but we will need to perform at the top of our game.

"There's an historic rivalry between Wasps and Leicester which has been at the heart of English rugby in years gone by. Obviously, Wasps have had a couple of lean years, but we’re hoping to get back there. The supporters certainly have huge respect for each other, but you can definitely sense a rivalry between Wasps and Leicester which has been built on historic successes."

Form: Leicester Tigers have lost just one of their last six Aviva Premiership Rugby matches – at Bath in last season's semi-final, whilst they are unbeaten at Welford Road in their last ten fixtures in the tournament, a run which includes eight wins in a row. Wasps' three game winless run in Aviva Premiership Rugby ended at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday with their 16-9 victory over Bath, whilst their only win on the road in the competition in 2015 came when they visited London Welsh in April. The Tigers achieved a Premiership Rugby double over Wasps last season. Wasps' most recent victory at Welford Road was 28-19 in Premiership Rugby in September 2008.

The teams:

Leicester: 15 Mathew Tait (c), 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Peter Betham, 12 Matt Smith, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Sam Harrison, 8 Opeti Fonua, 7 Lachlan McCaffrey, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Mike Fitzgerald, 4 Mike Williams, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Fraser Balmain.
Replacements: 16 Greg Bateman, 17 Logovi'i Mulipola, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Dom Barrow, 20 Jordan Crane, 21 Jono Kitto, 22 Seremaia Bai, 23 Telusa Veainu.

Wasps: 15 Ruaridh Jackson, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 James Downey, 11 Frank Halai, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 George Smith, 6 James Haskell (c), 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Carlo Festuccia, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 Ashley Johnson, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 Lorenzo Cittadini, 19 Bradley Davies, 20 Guy Thompson, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Sailosi Tagicakibau.

Date: Sunday, November 1
Venue: Welford Road
Kick-off: 15:15 GMT
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Assistant referees: Ross Campbell, Simon Harding
Television match official: Stuart Terheege
Timekeeper: Paul Stanley
Assessor: Brian Campsall