Preview: Wasps v Bath

Date published: December 23 2016

Dai Young has named his side to take on Bath on Christmas Eve, when a crowd of over 25,000 is expected at the Ricoh Arena.

Joe Launchbury is set to make his 100th appearance for Wasps, when he leads the side as captain once again. James Gaskell joins Launchbury in the second row.

Matt Mullan will also reach a milestone of 150 Premiership appearances. Marty Moore starts on the other side of the scrum, with Phil Swainston ready to make an impact from the bench. Jake Cooper-Woolley misses the game as he is following return-to-play protocols.

In the backline, Kurtley Beale will make his Premiership debut, having already played two games for Wasps in the Champions Cup.

England international Elliot Daly returns to Wasps’ starting line-up at 13, outside Jimmy Gopperth at 12, while Danny Cipriani has recovered from a calf strain to partner Joe Simpson at half-back.

Frank Halai and Christian Wade are the two starting wings. Kyle Eastmond has also recovered from injury to take a place on the bench.

Ahead of the Christmas Eve clash, Dai Young said: “We’re up against one of the best sides in the Premiership on Saturday. Bath have quality players throughout and are one of the most in-form sides in the league.

“We know how important it is to win your home games against teams around you in the Premiership and how much of a difference points won or lost can make over the festive period, so it’s a massive game.

“We’re all really looking forward to the challenge. It’s going to be a great occasion, with over 25,000 expected at the Ricoh Arena to watch second and third go up against each other. With so little separating the sides, both teams will be desperate to get the points.

“A special mention also goes to Joe Launchbury and Matt Mullan for reaching key milestones in their careers. They were both superb for us last weekend and are fantastic leaders to have around the squad. Congratulations to them on the 100th and 150th respectively.”

Meanwhile, Nathan Catt, Matt Garvey and Semesa Rokoduguni all return to the Bath starting line-up.

The trio, who missed last week’s 38-3 victory against Cardiff Blues, come back into the side to face an in-form Wasps side, who lie two points above third-placed Bath in the Premiership table in second.

Rokoduguni, who is the club’s top try scorer in the league with five tries so far, takes his place on the right wing, with Aled Brew, who opened his account with a try of his own against the Blues, continues on the left wing.

Tom Homer starts once again at full-back with Ben Tapuai and Jonathan Joseph making their first start together in the Premiership in the midfield.

The half-back pairing of Kahn Fotuali’i and George Ford, who co-captains the team with Garvey, will look to pull the strings in this much-anticipated encounter in Coventry.

Ross Batty, fresh from his try-scoring exploits in Cardiff, one of which included a 70m run-in, starts at hooker with Catt and Max Lahiff either side.

Luke Charteris and Dave Attwood make up the second row with Garvey, Francois Louw and Taulupe Faletau lining up in the back row to complete an imposing forward pack,.

Director of Rugby, Todd Blackadder stressed the importance of this weekend’s fixture: “We’re really looking forward to Saturday’s game and the squad will take a great deal of confidence from last week’s performance against Cardiff.

“However, we are well aware of Wasps quality all over the field, and will have to be at our very best to ensure that the scoreline is in our favour at the final whistle. It’s a crucial festive period for us and a win would set us up really well for the visit of Exeter Chiefs on New Year’s Eve.”

Form: Wasps have lost twice in the last five rounds of Premiership Rugby: at Saracens on October 9 and at Gloucester on November 29. Wasps have won their last 17 matches at the Ricoh Arena since Saracens beat them there in Premiership Rugby on December 27 2015. Bath’s only defeat in their last six Premiership Rugby encounters was by a single point to Harlequins at Twickenham Stoop in Round 9. Bath have lost their last three away games in all competitions since beating Exeter at Sandy Park in Round 7 of Premiership Rugby. The two clubs met on four occasions last season with Bath’s only victory being 25-23 at Ricoh Arena in the Champions Cup on December 13.

The teams:

Wasps: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Frank Halai, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 James Gaskell, 4 Joe Launchbury (c), 3 Marty Moore, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Matt Mullan
Replacements: 16 Alex Rieder, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 Kearnan Myall, 20 Guy Thompson, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Kyle Eastmond, 23 Rob Miller

Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Aled Brew, 10 George Ford (cc), 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Matt Garvey (cc), 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Max Lahiff, 2 Ross Batty, 1 Nathan Catt
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Kane Palma-Newport, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Tom Ellis, 21 Darren Allinson, 22 Adam Hastings, 23 Max Clark

Date: Saturday, December 24
Venue: Ricoh Arena
Kick-off: 14:00 GMT
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Peter Allan, Paul Burton
TMO: Graham Hughes