Planet Rugby

Preview: Stade Français v Wasps

23rd May 2014 12:59

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tom varndell london wasps v stade francais playoff

Flying: Tom Varndell

London Wasps will be up against it in their quest to win a place in next season's inaugural European Rugby Champions Cup against Stade Français.

The hard-fought nature of last week's first leg, decided by a last-gasp Andy Goode penalty, shows how well-matched the two teams are, and hints at how close Saturday's winner-takes-all contest in Paris is likely to prove.

Goode's three-pointer handed Wasps the slightest of advantages, a one-point aggregate lead as they travel to France tasked with overcoming a steadfast culture where losing at home is unacceptable, regardless of the opposition.

But the Adams Park outfit can be proud of their display last Sunday in the High Wycombe sunshine; don't forget how many stellar names adorn their opponents, known for the sort of flamboyance found in the greatest abundance in the French capital, beyond the nation's traditional penchant for the unpredictable and the suave.

Springbok pivot Morne Steyn, Les Bleus' skipper Pascal Pape, Wallabies veteran David Lyons and the prodigious talents of Jules Plisson all call Paris home, and while they've gone off the boil domestically in the latter part of the season, Stade will surely be firing on all cylinders in front of their home crowd, with a place in the premier European competition on the line, and with what is essentially a nil-nil scoreline to start from.

Indeed, it will be extremely difficult for Wasps to defend such a slender margin away from Adams Park: for all that last week's visitors were error-strewn and missed points from the tee, they can and do score tries, especially on home soil. They ran in four, albeit one from a chargedown, on Sunday.

Dai Young's men were resilient and spirited, but defensively, they are suspect, leaking an incredible 74 points to an admittedly lethal Northampton Saints side in their final domestic encounter of the season.

As expected after an indifferent Adams Park display, Steyn makes way for the exciting Plisson at Stade Jean Bouin. But the big news is the return of Sergio Parisse, the world-class number eight who can win games on his own.

Lining up opposite him, Young has been forced to swap Guy Thompson for Nathan Hughes - attending his wedding in Fiji - while Ed Jackson and Charlie Davies return to the bench.

The teams:

Stade Francais: 15 Hugo Bonneval, 14 Julien Arias, 13 Waisea Vuidravuwalu, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Jules Plisson, 9 Jerome Fillol, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Scott Lavalla, 6 Antoine Burban, 5 Pascal Papé, 4 Alexandre Flanquart, 3 Davit Kubriashvili, 2 Laurent Sempéré, 1 Heinke van der Merwe
Replacements: 16 Michael van Vuuren, 17 Sakaria Tolafau, 18 Rabah Slimani, 19 Anton van Zyl, 20 David Lyons, 21 Morne Steyn, 22 Julien Dupuy, 23 Meyer Bosman

London Wasps: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Will Helu, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Chris Bell (c), 11 Tom Varndell, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Guy Thompson, 7 James Haskell, 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 Tom Palmer, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Phil Swainston, 2 Carlo Festuccia, 1 Matt Mullan
Replacements: 16 Tom Lindsay, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Taione Vea, 19 Kearnan Myall, 20 Ed Jackson, 21 Charlie Davies, 22 Joe Carlisle, 23 Charlie Hayter

Date: Saturday 24th May
Venue: Stade Jean Bouin
Kick-off: 1445 local, 1345 BST
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wal)
Assistant referees: Ian Davies, Sean Brickell (both Wal)
TMO: Derek Bevan (Wal)

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