Planet Rugby

Preview: London Wasps v Saracens

29th March 2013 11:24

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Joe Launchbury London Wasps 2012

Locking in: Joe Launchbury

Andrea Masi, Joe Launchbury, Tom Lindsay and Zak Taulafo all start this weekend as Wasps make four changes for their Aviva Premiership clash with Saracens at Adams Park.

All four made a huge impact off the bench last weekend in a narrow defeat to Northampton - the first league loss for Wasps this season at home.

There are also bench returns for Charlie Davies and Jonathan Poff. James Haskell has been ruled out with a sore knee.

London Wasps Director of Rugby Dai Young said he was expecting another hugely physical challenge this weekend.

"We'll be tested in the physical stakes that's for sure but we've worked very hard this week in training and if we can front up we know we're a match for any side. Saracens aren't top of the table by accident and they are full of quality so this will be a real test," he said.

Meanwhile, Charlie Hodgson starts at fly-half for Saracens with Owen Farrell named at inside centre and Brad Barritt is rested.

John Smit, Petrus du Plessis, Mouritz Botha and Jackson Wray all come into the side on rotation for Schalk Brits, Matt Stevens, Alistair Hargreaves and Kelly Brown.

Neil de Kock switches places with Richard Wigglesworth to start at scrum-half while Chris Wyles comes into the starting XV on the wing with David Strettle on the bench.

It's on the bench that one name makes a welcome return with Jacques Burger back in action after more than a year out through injury. The flanker played 40 minutes for Bedford Blues earlier this month and continues his return from the knee injury that has kept him out since December 2011.

Form: It's now three straight losses in the Aviva Premiership for Wasps while last weekend's last-gasp reversal against Northampton saw their unbeaten run in the league this season at Adams' Park also end. Wasps are sixth seven points adrift of fourth-placed Northampton in the Aviva Premiership table and just four ahead of seventh-placed Bath Rugby as they look to earn a Heineken Cup spot for next season. Saracens have risen to the top of the Aviva Premiership table courtesy of their current form, which is the best in the tournament, netting them 23 points from their last six games. Wasps' only victory in their last five contests with Saracens was 20-15 in the Twickenham double header on the opening weekend of last season. Saracens have been victorious on their last two visits to Adams Park.

The teams:

London Wasps: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Andrea Masi, 12 Chris Bell, 11 Tom Varndell, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Sam Jones, 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 Marco Wentzel (c), 4 Joe Launcbury, 3 Phil Swainston, 2 Tom Lindsay, 1 Zak Taulafo.
Replacements: 16 T Rhys Thomas, 17 Tim Payne, 18 Will Taylor, 19 Tom Palmer, 20 Jonathan Poff, 21 Charlie Davies, 22 Nick Robinson, 23 Hugo Southwell.

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 Mouritz Botha, 4 Steve Borthwick (c), 3 Petrus du Plessis, 2 John Smit, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Carlos Nieto, 19 George Kruis, 20 Jacques Burger, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 David Strettle.

Date: Saturday, 30 March
Venue: Adams Park
Kick-off: 15:00
Referee: Martin Fox
Assistant referees: Andrew Pearce, Ashley Rowden

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PosTeamPPts
1Saracens418
2Northampton416
3Bath415
4Exeter414
5Wasps411