Preview: Wasps v Harlequins

Date published: February 26 2016

Wasps welcome back their captain Matt Mullan to the front row for Sunday’s Premiership clash with Harlequins at the Ricoh Arena.

Elsewhere, in the pack, James Cannon starts in the second row, with Bradley Davies retained by Wales for their game against France, and Carlo Festuccia starts at hooker with Ashley Johnson providing reinforcement from the bench.

There are two personnel changes in the backline. Rob Miller lines up at full-back, with Charles Piutau moving to 13 in place of Elliot Daly who is named in England’s 23-man squad to play Ireland. Jimmy Gopperth returns at 10 and Ruaridh Jackson is named as a replacement.

Ahead of the game, Wasps’ director of rugby Dai Young said: “Wasps and Quins’ fixtures always seem to bring out the best rugby in both teams, producing exciting and often nail-biting matches. They are traditionally tight games, which could go either way, and I don’t expect any different this weekend.

“We are two teams who want to play expansive, ball-in-hand rugby, so I’m sure both defences will be tested on Sunday. In terms of the set piece, both teams will also be looking to get dominance and that will be a real focal point for both sides.

“We’re pleased with the momentum and confidence we’ve been building in recent weeks and we know we need to keep that momentum going.

“We’ve enjoyed some big wins and have some good performances behind us away from home, but we’ve also had some narrow wins after two sub-standard performances at home, so the message this week has been that we need to produce a good home performance for our supporters.

“We’re very lucky to have received such fantastic support at the Ricoh Arena where our fans always get right behind us and we want to repay that support.”

Meanwhile, Harlequins boss Conor O’Shea has made four personnel changes to the starting team which played in the win over Leicester Tigers last week.

Academy member James Chisholm makes his first start since November at blindside flanker with the 20-year-old joined in the back row by Luke Wallace and Mat Luamanu at open side and number eight respectively.

In the one change to the back-line, Charlie Walker comes in for Tim Visser who is away on international duty with Scotland.

In the forwards, George Merrick partners James Horwill who captains the side at lock with Rob Buchanan starting at hooker.

Among the replacements, Charlie Matthews and Dave Ward start on the bench with scrum-half Sam Egerton and former Wallaby Beau Robinson looking to make their senior debuts for the club.

Form: Wasps are the best team in the Premiership on current form having gained 23 league points from the last six rounds. Wasps have put together a sequence of five successive victories in the competition and have not won six in a row in the same season since 2007/08. Harlequins ended a four game losing run with their 25-19 victory over Leicester at Twickenham Stoop on Friday. ‘Quins have not won away from home since they visited Worcester in the Premiership Rugby on 3 January. Harlequins only loss in their last five Premiership Rugby meetings with Wasps was 6-37 on their only previous visit to Ricoh Arena in Round 14 last year.

The teams:

Wasps : 15 Rob Miller, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Charles Piutau, 12 Siale Piutau, 11 Frank Halai, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Dan Robson,8 Nathan Hughes, 7 George Smith, 6 Thomas Young, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 James Cannon, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Carlo Festuccia, 1 Matt Mullan (c)
Replacements: 16 Ashley Johnson, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 Will Rowlands, 20 Alex Rieder, 21 Jamie Stevenson, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Brendan Macken

Harlequins: 15 Ross Chisholm, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Winston Stanley, 12 Harry Sloan, 11 Charlie Walker, 10 Ben Botica, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Mat Luamanu, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 James Chisholm, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 George Merrick, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Rob Buchanan, 1 Mark Lambert
Replacements: 16 Dave Ward, 17 Owen Evans, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Sam Egerton, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Matt Hopper


Date: Sunday, 28 February
Venue: Ricoh Arena
Kick-off: 15:15 GMT
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Andrew Jackson, Kelvin Stewart
TMO: David Grashoff