Wasps boss Dai Young has named a strong matchday squad take to take on Samoa at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday.
Young’s squad features six new signings who will be making their full Wasps’ debut, with Alex Rieder, Brendan Macken, Dan Robson, George Smith, Jimmy Gopperth and Tom Bristow the new faces lining up for the first time in a full 15-a-side match at the Ricoh Arena.
Ian Williams joins Wasps on loan from Oxford University for this pre-season friendly, as injury cover for props Jake Cooper-Woolley, Phil Swainston and James Johnston, while Lorenzo Cittadini is with Italy for the Rugby World Cup.
Matt Mullan will lead the team and is looking forward to Wasps’ first full pre-season fixture, against international opposition who are preparing for the World Cup.
“Samoa are a physical team whenever you meet them, whether you catch them with a week’s preparation or a few months of rugby under the belt," he said.
“They are coming into this match on the back of the Pacific Nations Cup and they were really impressive against the All Blacks recently, before taking on the Barbarians last weekend, so they will be very well organised.
“This is our first 15s game of the season, with six weeks to go before our first Premiership game, so it will be about preparing mentally as much as anything.
“We’ve had a couple of lively training sessions, with a few big hits going in, getting the bodies and minds ready for one of the most physical sides in world rugby.
“Samoa will want to put in a really good performance before they head into their Rugby World Cup campaign, so we know we are in for a massive challenge, but it’s the kind of challenge you relish.
“It isn’t often that you have a chance to take on an international side while playing for your club, so the boys are really looking forward to testing themselves against some of the toughest opponents in the game.
"We know from playing against a number of the Samoan players in the Premiership and Europe that they have threats throughout their squad.
“We’ll be focussing on what we’ve covered so far during pre-season and making sure we impress in those areas, before being able to move on to the next phase of pre-season.
“We’ve been doing lots of weights, a lot of running and a lot of skills work, but this is our first hit out and we’re all really excited about getting out on the pitch and having the chance to put into practice what we’ve worked on so far in pre-season.”
Mullan and the squad are also hoping for another big crowd, as sports fans in the area have chance to watch the Samoan team that will be competing against Scotland, South Africa, Japan and USA when the Rugby World Cup kicks off in a couple of weeks’ time.
“Whenever we’re in Coventry, whether it’s for an open training session or a match, the support has been fantastic and hopefully it will be just as vocal again this Saturday," he added.
"It’s a great opportunity for families to come down and enjoy international rugby on the doorstep.”
Meanwhile, Samoa coach Stephen Betham has made several changes to the starting XV that lost narrowly to the Barbarians at London's Olympic Stadium last weekend.
Amongst the backs, Fa'atoina Autagavaia has been called into the starting XV to replace Alesana Tuilagi who is a late withdrawal because of a calf injury.
Autagavaia lines up alongside highly-rated full-back Tim Nanai-Williams and Ken Pisi to form an exciting back-line.
Other changes in the back-line sees George Pisi and Johnny Leota forming a new midfield combination, replacing Paul Perez and Rey Lee-Lo while Mike Stanley takes over from Tusi Pisi at fly-half.
Up front, Ofisa Treviranus captains the team from number eight. He forms a formidable back row unit with flankers TJ Ioane and Alafoti Faosiliva who replace Jack Lam and Maurie Faasavalu respectively.
In the second row, Joe Tekori and Faifili Levave take over from the suspended Kane Thompson and Filo Paulo while Motu Matu'u (hooker) and Viliamu Afatia (loosehead prop) are preferred to Ole Avei and Sakaria Taulafo in the front row.
Tusi Pisi will also miss the match due to an achilles injury, with Patrick Fa'apale coming onto the bench.
Prediction: Brace yourself for an close battle between two entertaining sides. It can go either way but we expect Samoa to win by five points!
Wasps: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Ben Jacobs, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 George Smith, 6 Sam Jones, 5 James Gaskell, 4 James Cannon, 3 Simon McIntyre, 2 Carlo Festuccia, 1 Matt Mullan (c).
Replacements: 16 Ashley Johnson, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 Ian Williams, 19 Will Rowlands, 20 Guy Thompson, 21 Thomas Young, 22. Alex Rieder, 23 Dan Robson, 24 Alex Lozowski, 25 Brendan Macken, 26 James Downey.
Samoa: 15 Tim Nanai-Williams, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Fa'atoina Autagavaia, 10 Mike Stanley, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Ofisa Treviranus (c), 7 TJ Ioane, 6 Alafoti Faosiliva, 5 Joe Tekori, 4 Faifili Levave, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Motu Matu'u, 1 Viliamu Afatia.
Replacements: 16 Sakaria Taulafo, 17 Ole Avei, 18 Jake Grey, 19 Filo Paulo, 20 Maurie Fasavalu, 21 Vavao Afemai, 22 Patrick Fa'apale, 23 Paul Perez.
Date: Saturday, September 5
Venue: Ricoh Arena, Coventry
Kick-Off: 16:30 local (15:30 GMT)
Referee: Neil Hennesey (Wales)
Assistant referees: Rhys Thomas (Wales), tbc