Preview: Wasps v Bristol

Date published: September 16 2016

Wasps lock James Gaskell returns to the starting line-up and will captain the side to take on Bristol at the Ricoh Arena this Sunday.

In the pack, Simon McIntyre, Tommy Taylor, Matt Symons, Guy Thompson and Thomas Young all retain the starting shirts after impressive performances at Welford Road last Saturday.

Up front, Jake Cooper-Woolley starts at tighthead, with Marty Moore missing out due to a calf strain, and Phil Swainston comes onto the bench.

In the back row, Sam Jones is given a well-deserved rest after two typically physical performances against Exeter and Leicester, one of a number of contenders for man of the match last weekend. Alex Rieder gets his opportunity to impress again, having already produced strong performances during pre-season and in the A-League on Monday.

The only change in the backline sees Frank Halai running out on the left wing. On the bench, centre Kyle Eastmond is in line to make his Wasps’ debut, while there’s a welcome return from injury for lock Kearnan Myall. Former Bristol scrum-half Craig Hampson again provides cover for Wasps at nine, with Dan Robson working his way back to full-fitness.

Ahead of Sunday’s clash, Dai Young is looking forward to welcoming Bristol to the Ricoh Arena for the first time, but is also fully aware of the threat they will pose: "Bristol is renowned for its passionate support base and I appreciate how much rugby means to the city, so it’s great to see them back at the top table.

"We’re aware Sunday’s match could be something of a banana skin for us, having made a positive start to our Premiership campaign. In professional sport, you have to look forward very quickly and the only thing that counts is the performance this Sunday. We must back up our two wins, otherwise they will count for nothing.

"We know exactly how tough a proposition Bristol Rugby will be, having played them in pre-season when we were lucky to come away with the win. If we’re honest, they probably should have beaten us that day. They have an abrasive pack and real quality in their backline, with a number of experienced players spread throughout the squad.

"I suspect Bristol will fancy their chances on Sunday as they’ll remember how close they pushed us at Clifton RFC. They’re a decent team who will definitely pick up wins soon and we need to make sure it’s not against us. We have to perform at the same intensity as the first two weeks, otherwise it won’t be good enough."

Meanwhile, Jordan Williams and USA international Thretton Palamo start in the backline, while Ryan Bevington earns a first start in the front-row at the Ricoh Arena.

Andy Robinson makes seven changes from the side that suffered defeat to Northampton Saints last weekend.

In the pack, Anthony Perenise comes into the front row, while Bristol-born trio Olly Robinson, Joe Joyce and Mitch Eadie are also listed, making their first Premiership starts.

"We played well for forty minutes versus Quins and then again versus Northampton last weekend, but we’ve yet to deliver an eighty-minute performance in the Aviva Premiership," said director of rugby Andy Robinson.

"Sunday is an important opportunity for those guys who have been waiting for their chance so far this season to showcase what they can do."

Wales international scrum-half Martin Roberts is included among the replacements and could make his first league outing of the campaign.

Form: Wasps have recorded two victories, over Exeter and Leicester, but have not begun a Premiership campaign with three successive wins since season 2009/10. Wasps have won their last ten matches at Ricoh Arena in all competitions since Saracens beat them there last Christmas. Bristol have begun their return to the Premiership with defeats against Harlequins and Northampton. Bristol’s most recent victory in the tournament was against Worcester at the Memorial Stadium in March 2009. The two clubs have not met since April 2009, whilst Wasps' only defeat to Bristol since 2001 came at the Memorial Stadium in the Premiership in September 2006.   

The teams:

Wasps: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Frank Halai, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Guy Thompson, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Alex Rieder, 5 James Gaskell (c), 4 Matt Symons, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Simon McIntyre
Replacements: 16 Ashley Johnson, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 Kearnan Myall, 20 Nathan Hughes, 21 Craig Hampson, 22 Kyle Eastmond, 23 Josh Bassett

Bristol: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Ryan Edwards, 13 William Hurrell, 12 Thretton Palamo, 11 Tom Varndell, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Will Cliff, 8 Mitch Eadie, 7 Olly Robinson, 6 Jack Lam(c), 5 Joe Joyce, 4 Ian Evans, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Ross McMillan, 1 Ryan Bevington
Replacements: 16 Chris Brooker, 17 Soane Tonga’uiha, 18 Gaston Cortes, 19 James Phillips, 20 Jordan Crane, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Adrian Jarvis, 23 Ben Mosses

Date: Sunday, September 17
Venue: Ricoh Arena
Kick-off: 14:30 BST (13:30 GMT)
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Assistant Referees: Ross Campbell, Gareth Copsey
TMO: Keith Lewis