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Preview: Wasps v Exeter

19th April 2013 09:11

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Haydn Thomas Exeter v Wasps 2012

Pseudo final: Wasps v Exeter

London Wasps Director of Rugby Dai Young has made seven changes to his side to face Exeter Chiefs in the Premiership at Adams Park on Sunday.

Returning from injury, Stephen Jones, T Rhys Thomas, Phil Swainston and James Haskell are all named in the starting line-up.

Andrea Masi and Joe Launchbury are also included in the starting fifteen, having been rested last weekend, with Joe Simpson starting at nine having been among the replacements at Welford Road.

The game will also mark Tom Varndell's 100th appearance for the club.

"This Sunday's fixture is huge for both clubs, there's no two ways about it," said Young. "In the chase for a spot in the top six this is a crunch game. We know that Exeter will come to Adams Park without any fear and they will test us defensively so we are going to have to be up to that challenge."

Meanwhile, Exeter boss Rob Baxter has named an unchanged starting XV. Baxter knows the rewards of another hard year in the Aviva Premiership are within his side's grasp.

Four wins in their last five top flight fixtures have helped propel the Chiefs into the all-important top six as the battle for qualification in next season's Heineken Cup reaches boiling point.

Entering into this weekend's fixtures, the Chiefs hold a slender advantage over both Bath (2 points) and Wasps (3 points) for the final European spot - and Baxter is hopeful his troops can continue their recent good form in what promises to be a huge battle.

Fresh from a 27-6 home win over London Irish, a result Baxter claimed afterwards felt like a "semi-final", this weekend the attention turns to Adams Park in what is effectively a final for both teams.

"It does feel like it is the final this weekend, primarily because we have been on a run of games where slipping up would have cost us a chance of finishing in the top six," said Baxter.

"Fortunately, that hasn't happened. The last five games have brought four wins and a very narrow loss [against Leicester]. That has kept us in the fight and now we find ourselves in a situation where ourselves, Wasps and Bath are pretty much fighting it out for one slot.

"That means there are some massive games to be played over these last two weeks to decide who will be in the Heineken Cup next season. Personally, I think it's a fantastic place for us to be at this stage of the season, still in there fighting for it with two games remaining.

"It's the same old story with Exeter sometimes, we get credited with being a hard-working team and that we have no real stars, but the reality is these guys are ambitious and they really enjoy the experience of the Premiership and the Heineken Cup and they want to experience it again.

"From a coaching perspective, it's great to be working with a group of players like that and we have to keep fostering that and driving it to help the players achieve all they can."

Form: London Wasps have slipped to six successive defeats in all competitions since their 33-29 win at home to Gloucester in round 15 of Aviva Premiership Rugby. Wasps have lost their last three games at Adams Park, their worst home run since April 2010. Exeter Chiefs have lost just one of their last five Premiership matches, 9-12 to Leicester at Sandy Park on 23rd March. The Chiefs have won their last two away games at Harlequins and Worcester. Exeter have taken the last five contests with Wasps in all tournaments, since the Londoners' 24-12 victory at Adams Park on 5th December 2010.

The teams:

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

Exeter: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Phil Dollman, 12 Jason Shoemark, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Haydn Thomas, 8 Richard Baxter (c), 7 James Scaysbrook, 6 Ben White, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Hoani Tui, 2 Jack Yeandle, 1 Brett Sturgess.
Replacements: 16 Chris Whitehead, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 Aly Muldowney, 20 Dave Ewers, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Ian Whitten.

Date: Sunday, April 21
Kick-off: 14:00 BST
Venue: Adams Park
Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant referees: Robin Goodliffe, Roy Maybank
Television match official: David Grashoff
Timekeeper: John Burtenshaw

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