Preview: Wasps v Saracens

Date published: March 6 2015

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Wasps' unbeaten record at their new Coventry home in the Premiership should come under serious threat when Saracens visit on Sunday.

That being said last year's runners-up were pushed all the way by Newcastle at Allianz Park a week ago. A good home win over Bath in Round 14 however was massive in keeping their playoff rivals at bay.

Incredibly, both sides are only separated by four points worth of points difference and will go into this one battling it out to go second. The home side though will be hell-bent on preserving their proud record at the Ricoh Arena.

Wasps director of rugby Dai Young has named a strong starting XV.

Matt Mullan again leads the side, which this week sees Tom Lindsay start at hooker. Injuries to Carlo Festuccia (calf) and Edd Shervington (shoulder) mean Ashley Johnson will start on the blindside flank, but provide cover at hooker, where he has already featured for Wasps this season and previously for the Cheetahs.

Ed Jackson and Guy Thompson provide two back row options on the bench.
 
Bradley Davies returns from the Welsh camp to start in the second row alongside James Gaskell, with Kearnan Myall on the bench.
 
Lorenzo Cittadini, back after Italy’s win over Scotland, takes up the tighthead berth. Jake Cooper-Woolley sits out after concussion last weekend and Phil Swainston keeps his place on the bench.
 
In other changes to last Sunday’s match squad, Sailosi Tagicakibau runs out on the left wing, while Christian Wade stays on the right. Andrea Masi returns from the leg injury suffered against Newcastle two weeks ago to provide cover at fullback and centre.
 
Wasps Director Dai Young said: “We produced periods of high quality rugby last Sunday to pick up the five-try win, which was a glimpse of how good we can be, but we were also very sloppy in parts and it was nowhere near the 80 minute performance we keep talking about.

"That will be our focus again this weekend.
 
“We know we are up against a side who are used to winning. Saracens are a quality team who will look to put us under pressure with their kicking game and will try to squeeze us up front.

"They have a very good set piece and strong defence, but they also have individual players with the flare to score tries if you give them opportunities.
 
“This is a massive game for both teams. I’m not sure I can remember a time when the table has been this tight at this stage of the season, with only one point separating the second-placed and sixth-placed team. You could just as easily finish in seventh or second on the back of one result.
 
“As a playing group, we need to focus on the here and now and trying to get a win in this game.

"If we achieve that, then we will sit in a very good position going into the LV=Cup break, before returning to the Aviva Premiership to play Northampton Saints at Franklins Gardens, which is always tough no matter how well you play.”

Meanwhile, Saracens' director of rugby Mark McCall has included returning England trio Alex Goode, Mako Vunipola and Richard Wigglesworth in his starting line-up.

Loosehead prop Vunipola starts the game alongside Jamie George and Petrus Du Plessis in the Saracens front row. Elsewhere in the pack, Scotland international lock forward Jim Hamilton comes into the side to partner Saracens captain Alistair Hargreaves in the second row.

Fresh from a Man of the Match performance against the Newcastle Falcons, Maro Itoje retains a place in the Saracens starting XV, with the England Saxons international starting the game at blindside flanker. Jacques Burger continues at openside flanker, to join Jackson Wray who starts at No8.

Richard Wigglesworth partners Alex Goode in the halves, with Brad Barritt continuing to line-up alongside Marcelo Bosch at centre.

With David Strettle rested, Chris Wyles starts on the left wing whilst Chris Ashton returns to the side to wear the number 14 jersey. Ben Ransom continues at full-back.

Wasps' unbeaten record at their new Coventry home in the Premiership should come under serious threat when Saracens visit on Sunday.

That being said last year's runners-up were pushed all the way by Newcastle at Allianz Park a week ago. A good home win over Bath in Round 14 however was massive in keeping their playoff rivals at bay.

Incredibly, both sides are only separated by four points worth of points difference and will go into this one battling it out to go second. The home side though will be hell-bent on preserving their proud record at the Ricoh Arena.

Form: Wasps are the best team in Aviva Premiership Rugby on current form, having accumulated 22 league points from their last six matches. Wasps are the only team in the competition to have won all eight home games they have played this season, whilst their four games at Ricoh Arena in Premiership Rugby have all achieved maximum point wins scoring 18 tries and conceding just four. Saracens last five games in Aviva Premiership Rugby have all been won by the away side on the day, whilst Sarries only victory on the road in their last six trips in the tournament was 25-23 at Newcastle in round 11. Wasps have won just one of their last ten encounters with Saracens in all competitions: 20-15 at Twickenham in the London double-header in September 2011. Saracens were defeated on their only previous visit to the Ricoh Arena: 16-18 to Munster in the semi-final of the European Cup in April 2008.

The teams:

Wasps: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 James Downey, 11 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 James Gaskell, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Tom Lindsay, 1 Matt Mullan (c).
Replacements: 16 Simon McIntyre, 17 Phil Swainston, 18 Kearnan Myall, 19 Ed Jackson, 20 Guy Thompson, 21 Piri Weepu, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Andrea Masi.

Saracens: 15 Ben Ransom, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Alex Goode, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Maro Itoje, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, (c), 4 Jim Hamilton, 3 Petrus Du Plessis, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Jared Saunders, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Ernst Joubert, 20 Matt Hankin, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Nils Mordt, 23 Tim Streather.

Date: Sunday, 8 March
Venue: Ricoh Arena
Kick-off: 14:00 GMT
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant referees: Nigel Carrick & Andy Watson
TMO: David Sainsbury

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