Preview: Wasps v Leicester

Date published: May 8 2015

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A new Midlands derby between two old Premiership rivals, Wasps and Leicester should supply an epic contest when the Tigers travel to Coventry.

The two dominant sides in English rugby during the 2000s are scrapping it out for a place in the playoffs as the season winds down.

Making the top four for Wasps in fact hinges on victory this weekend, given they trail fourth-placed Leicester by three points.

Moving to Coventry has been a monumental success for Wasps both on and off the field, a far cry from three seasons ago when they were on the verge of going bankrupt and being relegated from the top flight.

They have been a thrill to watch this season, summed up by Joe Simpson and Elliot Daly winning the last two Premiership Player of the Month awards.

Those young backs along with Nathan Hughes, James Haskell and the welcome return of Joe Launchbury, on the bench for his first action since 2014, should give the hosts a shot in the arm.

Leicester haven't been the force of old this season but, typically, are right in the hunt to make the semi-finals once again. Having to host Northampton Saints next weekend is a big ask, making Saturday's fixture with Wasps absolutely essential.

Fascinatingly, Leicester's points difference of only 19 is dwarfed by every other side in the top six, yet they're right in contention.

Wasps have named the same team that beat Exeter last time out, but there is a welcome return on the bench from Launchbury after six months out. The England lock has been struggling with a neck injury.

Leicester have a return of their own on the bench, with club captain Ed Slater named among the replacements. Dan Cole returns after being rested for the game against London Welsh, while Vereniki Goneva returns from suspension. Mathew Tait and Seremaia Bai will form the centre partnership for the Tigers.

Form: Wasps have won their last two Aviva Premiership Rugby matches, against London Welsh and Exeter, and boast the best home record in the league having lost just once on their own turf all season. Leicester Tigers' only defeat in the last seven rounds of Aviva Premiership Rugby action came at Saracens last month. Indeed, only two sides have a better away record this season in the competition – Bath Rugby and Northampton Saints. On top of that Wasps' only victory over Tigers in their last five encounters in all tournaments was a 22-12 triumph at Adams Park in October 2013. The Tigers are venturing into foreign territory, however, having not played a game in Coventry since January 1998,

The teams:

Wasps: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 James Haskell (c), 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 James Gaskell, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Carlo Festuccia, 1 Matt Mullan 
Replacements: 16 Tom Lindsay 17 Simon McIntyre 18 Will Taylor 19 Joe Launchbury 20 Guy Thompson 21 Charlie Davies 22 Alex Lozowski 23 Rob Miller

Leicester: 15 Niall Morris, 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Mathew Tait, 12 Seremaia Bai, 11 Vereneki Goneva, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Ben Youngs (c), 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Geoff Parling, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Logovi'i Mulipola 
Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Marcos Ayerza, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Ed Slater, 20 Jamie Gibson, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Tommy Bell, 23 Christian Loamanu

Date: Saturday, May 9
Venue: Ricoh Arena, Coventry
Kick-off: 15:15 local (14:15 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Paul Dix, Kelvin Stewart
TMO: Sean Davey

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