Preview: London Irish v Wasps

Date published: November 27 2015

Rugby World Cup winner Ben Franks will make his Aviva Premiership debut in the London Irish front-row against Wasps at Twickenham on Saturday.

The All Black will line up alongside Tom Court and David Paice with Eoin Sheriff partnering captain Matt Symons in the second-row. Joe Trayfoot, Blair Cowan and Ofisa Treviranus are named in the back-row.

Scott Steele returns to the side to start at scrum-half with Chris Noakes outside him at fly-half. Johnny Williams and Aseli Tikoirotuma start in the centre with Tom Fowlie, Alex Lewington and Topsy Ojo in the back-three.

Gerard Ellis, Tom Smallbone and Leo Halavatau are the front-row replacements with Jebb Sinclair, and Luke Narraway covering the second and back-row. Darren Allinson, Theo Brophy-Clews and Fergus Mulchrone are the back replacements.

"We are looking forward to the contest tomorrow and playing at one of rugby’s iconic stadiums is a real privilege," said London Irish Head Coach, Tom Coventry.

"We have welcomed a couple of our World Cup players back into the fold since our last Premiership match and have enjoyed a good week of preparation. Wasps have had an incredible last two weeks in Europe and we know the enormity of the task facing us, but it is one we are relishing."

Meanwhile, James Haskell skippers the Wasps squad and is set to make his 100th Premiership appearance for the club, while Ben Jacobs lines up for his 50th Premiership appearance.

Haskell lines up in the back-row alongside Nathan Hughes and Thomas Young, who comes in for George Smith, who is rested having played every minute of every game so far this season.

In the second-row, Kearnan Myall joins James Gaskell, who was named man of the match during Wasps’ win over Toulon last Sunday. Bradley Davies has returned from illness to take a place on the bench, but Joe Launchbury misses out due to a hamstring strain.

After Carlo Festuccia fractured his cheekbone against Toulon, Ashley Johnson starts at hooker, with Edd Shervington coming onto the bench.

There is one change in the backline, with Sailosi Tagicakibau lining up against his former club, in place of Christian Wade, who picked up a foot injury against Toulon, which is expected to sideline the Wasps’ winger for between two to three months.

Jimmy Gopperth returns from a three-week suspension to take a place on the bench, alongside former Leinster team mate Brendan Macken.

"We’ve set ourselves high standards over the last two European games," said Wasps Director of Rugby Dai Young.

"Now we need to transfer that form to the Aviva Premiership and find consistency, because we haven’t produced that consistency yet.

"In the league so far, we’ve produced two very good home performances and two very average away performances. I’ve watched Irish quite a bit and while they haven’t had the results they would want yet, their performances haven’t been that far off – it’s just a matter of them clicking.

"They are a decent team who will certainly cause teams real problems and we are hoping it is not going to be us. The biggest thing I have said this week, is that it is great doing well in Europe, but we need to make sure we qualify for Europe again next year. There’s no point in us going on a great run and doing really well in our European campaign and then not qualifying for the European Champions Cup next year. So our next two games are massive for us now.

"This season is relentless, it’s a big game this week and then, funnily enough, it’s another big game the week after. That is where we are at, every game is a massive game for us."

Form: London Irish’s only victory in any tournament since April came at home to Agen in round 1 of the European Challenge Cup, The Exiles have lost on their last six visits to Twickenham since beating Saracens there in the London double header in 2010.  Wasps only loss in their last five fixtures in all tournaments was 16-24 at Leicester in round 3 of Aviva Premiership Rugby. Wasps have won only one of their last four visits to Twickenham: 38-30 over Gloucester in April 2014.  Wasps have lost just one of their last four Premiership Rugby fixtures against the Exiles: 20-23 at Adams Park in February. The two clubs have clashed just once before at Twickenham with London Irish gaining the victory during the 2008 London Double Header.  

The teams:

London Irish: 15 Topsy Ojo, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Aseli Tikoirotuma, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Tom Fowlie, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Scott Steele, 8 Ofisa Treviranus 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Joe Trayfoot, 5 Matt Symons (c), 4 Eoin Sheriff, 3 Ben Franks, 2 David Paice, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Gerard Ellis, 17 Tom Smallbone, 18 Leo Halavatau, 19 Jebb Sinclair, 20 Luke Narraway, 21 Darren Allinson, 22 Theo Brophy-Clews, 23 Fergus Mulchrone.

Wasps: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Ben Jacobs, 11 Frank Halai, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Thomas Young, 6 James Haskell (c), 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 James Gaskell, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Ashley Johnson, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 Edd Shervington, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Lorenzo Cittadini, 19 Bradley Davies, 20 Sam Jones, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Jimmy Gopperth, 23 Brendan Macken.

Date: Saturday 28 November
Venue: Twickenham Stadium
Kick-off: 17:30 GMT
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant referees: Paul Burton, Andrew Pearce
TMO: Sean Davey