Preview: Wasps v Toulon

Date published: November 20 2015

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Wasps captain James Haskell returns to the back row, alongside George Smith and Nathan Hughes, for their clash with Toulon at the Ricoh Arena.

The starting line-up otherwise remains the same as the side that won in Dublin. The only other change comes on the bench, where Italian tighthead prop Lorenzo Cittadini returns following his one-match suspension.

After a confidence-boosting away victory against Leinster, Wasps know they need to back up last weekend's performance, at home, to make the first round win really count. The challenge becomes no easier, with the three-time European Champions en route to Coventry.

"It was a great performance by our squad last week, but we know we need to back it up this weekend. There has been no time to rest on our laurels, that's for sure. Toulon coming to town certainly focuses the mind and we're really looking forward to the challenge they present," said director of rugby Dai Young.

"As a player and as a coach, you want to test yourself against the very best. These are the kinds of challenges you dream of. Playing the reigning champions, on your own turf, is an occasion that doesn't come around very often. We will look to embrace that and try to make sure we play to our potential to do ourselves justice.

"Toulon are a fantastic team. They have deservedly won the title three years running – the first team ever to achieve that – but our squad won't be daunted. We need to draw on our experience out in Toulon last season, when we faced them in the quarter final. They deservedly won that game, but we caused them a few problems along the way and we need to build on our second half performance in the South of France. We know we have to be at our best if we are to get the result we want."

He added: "These European occasions are rare and should be savoured. It's not often supporters get to see so many superstars of the game, on one pitch, in a club rugby match. We are fortunate to have a few internationals ourselves and I am sure every single one of our players is relishing the chance to take on the European Champions at our home ground."

Meanwhile, Toulon have made one tweak to their XV that was set to face Bath last week as Matt Stevens comes in at tighthead prop for the benched Levan Chilachava. 

Duane Vermeulen and Mamuka Gorgodze are set to add considerable muscle off the bench for the holders.

In the backline, Quade Cooper is set to make his European debut at fly-half alongside scrum-half Jonathan Pelissie.

The teams:

Wasps: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Ben Jacobs, 11 Frank Halai, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 George Smith, 6 James Haskell (c), 5 Bradley Davies, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Carlo Festuccia, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 Ashley Johnson, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Lorenzo Cittadini, 19 James Gaskell, 20 Sam Jones, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Sailosi Tagicakibau.

Toulon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Jonathan Pelissie, 8 Steffon Armitage, 7 Juan Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Juan Smith (c), 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Anthony Etrillard, 1 Xavier Chiocci.
Replacements: 16 Bastien Soury, 17 Florian Fresia, 18 Levan Chilachava, 19 Duane Vermeulen, 20 Mamuka Gorgodze, 21 Theo Belan, 22 Sebastien Tillous-Borde, 23 Konstantine Mikautadze.

Date: Sunday, November 22
Venue: Ricoh Arena
Kick-off: 17:15 GMT
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Dudley Phillips (Ireland), Leo Colgan (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)

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