Three former Sale Sharks will line-up for Wasps in Sunday’s Aviva Premiership clash at the Ricoh Arena.
Simon McIntyre, Rob Miller and James Gaskell all start against their former club, while Bradley Davies and Carlo Festuccia return to the Wasps starting line-up, after coming off the bench in last weekend’s win at Kingsholm.
Ben Jacobs and Elliot Daly continue their centre partnership, Varndell and Wade again start on the wings and the back row and half back combinations are unchanged.
With almost 15,000 expected at the Ricoh Arena this weekend, Wasps Director of Rugby Dai Young and his squad are looking forward to returning to their new home:
“We are really excited about returning to the Ricoh Arena after such a special atmosphere there during our first game last month,” said Young.
“It’s a fantastic stadium, the players were over the moon with the facilities and everything on their first match. You couldn’t fail to enjoy the occasion, with so much noise being made and Wasps flags being waved.
“We’re hoping for another decent crowd, but we need to focus on what we do, and that’s producing a standard of rugby and results that make supporters want to keep coming back.
“We will be working hard to produce an 80 minute performance on Sunday and we know we will need to be at our best against a strong Sale Sharks side.
“It’s neck and neck between us both at the half way stage in the Aviva Premiership, with both teams tied on 30 points.
“Sale have had the wood over us the last couple of seasons. They’re a battle-hardened team with a fantastic driving line-out and some X factor players who can win games for them, so we know the threat they will bring.
“While we weren’t happy with aspects of our performance last Sunday, it was good to get the monkey off our back by getting an away win in the Aviva Premiership.
“The focus this Sunday will be on backing up that win, as well as our first performance at the Ricoh Arena, to try to turn our new home into a fortress as soon as possible.”
Meanhwile, Sharks Director of Rugby Steve Diamond has made several changes to the side that lost out in the last minute to Leicester Tigers last Saturday. Missing out through injury is skipper Dan Braid who picked up a knee injury in the game. Mark Easter starts at number eight.
Mark Cueto, Danny Cipriani and Chris Cusiter drop to the bench in favour of Tom Arscott, Joe Ford and Will Cliff.
Form: Wasps have won their last four matches in all tournaments since their 16-18 reversal at Leicester in Round Nine of Aviva Premiership Rugby. Wasps have now won all three matches they have played at the Ricoh Arena, against Northampton and Munster in 2007 in the European Cup, and against London Irish on 21 December. Sale Sharks’ four game winning run in Aviva Premiership Rugby ended at home to Leicester on Saturday, relinquishing a 15 point lead. The Sharks have won their last two away games in the competition, at Harlequins and at Newcastle. Sale have won their last six fixtures with Wasps in all tournaments since Wasps’ 25-18 victory at Adams Park in December 2012.
Wasps: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Ben Jacobs, 11 Tom Varndell, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 James Haskell (c), 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 James Gaskell, 4 Bradley Davies , 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Carlo Festuccia, 1 Simon McIntyr
Replacements: 16 Tom Lindsay, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 Kearnan Myall, 20 Sam Jones, 21 Charlie Davies, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Alapati Leiua
Sale: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Will Addison, 13 Jonny Leota, 12 Sammy Tuitupou, 11 Tom Arscott , 10 Joe Ford, 9 Will Cliff, 8 Mark Easter, 7 David Seymour (c), 6 Magnus Lund, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Nathan Hines, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 2 Shalva Mamukashvili, 1 Alberto de Marchi.
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 Eifion Lewis Roberts, 18 Ross Harrison, 19 Jonathan Mills, 20 Josh Beaumont, 21 Chris Cusiter, 22 Danny Cipriani, 23 Mark Cueto
Date: Sunday, 4 January
Venue: Ricoh Arena
Kick-off: 14.00 GMT
Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant referees: Andrew Jackson and Roy Maybank
Television match official: Geoff Warren