Planet Rugby

Preview - London Irish v Wasps

16th March 2007 12:57

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Riki Flutey

Riki Flutey slots in at full-back for Irish

Following victory over NEC Harlequins last Saturday, London Wasps have made three changes in their starting line up to face London Irish in the St Patrick's Day Guinness Premiership derby at the Madejski Stadium on Sunday.

Josh Lewsey returns to club duties to take up a centre berth alongside Fraser Waters, whilst Simon Amor comes in at scrum half in place of Mark McMillan, who is not yet fully recovered from concussion following a bang on the head during the Quins match last weekend.

In the forwards, Simon Shaw returns to the second row after being rested last week, whilst John Hart comes in to the back row in place of James Haskell.

It will be Hart's first start of 2007 as the competition amongst Wasps back row players has been fierce, culminating in the selection of the three Wasps men in England's back row for Saturday's Six Nations finale against Wales.

Wasps Director of Rugby, Ian McGeechan is looking forward to the occasion, with London Irish having sold more than 22,000 tickets for the game - nearly a full house at the Madejski.

"There is going to be a fabulous atmosphere for the game," he said.

"And against a side of London Irish's quality we are going to have to turn in a very good performance.

"I was very pleased with our second half performance last week, which I thought was outstanding, and we are going to need to repeat that if we are to come away with points from the Madejski on Sunday."

Team selection has been a challenge again this week, with Wasps missing their five English, one Irish and one French player involved in the Six Nations in addition to three of McGeechan's young guns, who are playing for England U20 on Friday night, plus the unavailability of Martin Purdy (fractured finger), who joins McMillan on the list of players unavailable due to injury.

However, such is the strength in depth of the current Wasps squad that McGeechan can still call on three internationally-capped players in his pack, despite having six other forwards absent on Six Nations duty.

"It's good to have the experience of those players still available to us for Sunday's game, even though we have five of our forwards in the England pack and a sixth captaining France," said McGeechan.

"Chris Bishay keeps his place in the back line following a good performance last weekend, and Danny Cipriani comes back onto the bench after missing the last three weeks with an ankle injury. He has been training this week, and we have been managing his rehab carefully to ensure he makes a full recovery."

Meanwhile, with Mike Catt and Shane Geraghty with the England team for tomorrow's final Six Nations match with Wales, the Exiles retain the core of the team that won away at Bristol last Saturday, making just three changes - one positional and two personnel, to the starting line-up of the team that played at Memorial Stadium.

Among the backs Riki Flutey moves to full back and Nils Mordt comes in at outside centre. In the pack Tonga Lea'aetoa starts at tight head prop in place of the injured Faan Rautenbach. Bob Casey captains the team in Mike Catt's absence.

"This is the first of two tough 'local derby' matches that we must play in six days," said Brian Smith, London Irish Director of Rugby

"Our recent run of success means that there is lots of self-belief, both individual and collective, among the squad at present, all of it will be needed as we prepare to face Wasps and Saracens who are directly above us in the league.

"The prospect of playing before over 22,000 people has the players really excited, I'm sure they will want to give of their best on what will be a great rugby occasion."

London Irish: 15 Riki Flutey, 14 Topsy Ojo, 13 Nils Mordt, 12 Seilala Mapusua, 11 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 10 Barry Everitt, 9 Paul Hodgson, 8 Phil Murphy, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Kieran Roche, 5 Bob Casey (c), 4 Nick Kennedy, 3 Tonga Lea'aetoa, 2 Robbie Russell, 1 Neal Hatley.

Replacements: 16 Michael Collins, 17 David Paice, 18 James Hudson, 19 Juan Leguizamon, 20 Olivier Magne, 21 Ben Willis, 22 Justin Bishop.

London Wasps 15 Mark Van Gisbergen, 14 Chris Bishay, 13 Fraser Waters, 12 Josh Lewsey, 11 Tom Voyce, 10 Alex King, 9 Simon Amor, 8 Lawrence Dallaglio (c), 7 Jonny O'Connor, 6 John Hart, 5 George Skivington, 4 Simon Shaw, 3 Nick Adams, 2 Joe Ward, 1 Alistair McKenzie.

Replacements: 16 Rob Webber, 17 Peter Bracken, 18 Dan Leo, 19 Richard Birkett, 20 James Brooks, 21 Danny Cipriani, 22 Ayoola Erinle.

Date: Sunday, March 18

Kick-off: 14:00 GMT

Venue: Madejski Stadium

Referee: Rob Debney

Touch judges: Andrew Pearce, Ashley Reay

Television match official: Laurie Bryant, Graham Hughes

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