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Joe Launchbury excited for return to Aviva Stadium with Wasps

Joe Launchbury is returning to the scene of his latest disappointment on Saturday, but the Wasps second row insists any frustration from his last trip to the Aviva Stadium won’t rear its ugly head as he takes on Leinster in a crunch Champions Cup quarter-final.

On March 18 Launchbury travelled to the Aviva Stadium to take on Ireland with England, defending an 18-match winning run and looking to make history with back-to-back Grand Slams.

But while England still lifted a second successive RBS 6 Nations trophy, they were unable to write their name in the record books as Ireland won 13-9.

This Saturday the 25-year-old returns to the Aviva Stadium, but this time it is to captain Wasps against Leinster with a spot in the final four of this season’s Champions Cup up for grabs.

Launchbury isn’t the only Wasps going back to Dublin, with James Haskell and Elliot Daly also starting the defeat against Ireland.

There will be a few familiar faces in Leinster shirts too with Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Jonathan Sexton, Jack McGrath, Tadhg Furlong and Sean O’Brien all starting having done so for the Men in Green too.

But despite the similarities Launchbury is treating Saturday’s clash as a completely separate entity.

“I think it’s completely different; we’ve obviously got a few guys who were out there and they have gone through the same, but it’s a different group,” Launchbury said.

“It’s obviously fresh in my memory and I can hopefully relay some messages this week about what we can probably expect and I hope that can help the team, but overall it’s a different group of players and set of circumstances.

“We’ve got a whole squad here who have worked extremely hard to get into this position. We’ve got ourselves out of a very tough pool, there were times when we weren’t favourites to get out of it, so we want to do ourselves justice now.

“Leinster have obviously got some key players in their team who were important figures in the Ireland team, so naturally those individuals will shape how they play this weekend.

“They have quality throughout. You look at a player like Johnny Sexton and the influence he has on a team, that doesn’t disappear when he goes back to his club, so they have a similar style in some ways but obviously in other ways they’ll be different.”

In last season’s Champions Cup Wasps beat Leinster in both pool clashes, winning 33-6 on the road and 51-10 at the Ricoh Arena.

But Launchbury is under no illusions as to how big a challenge Leinster pose this weekend.

“For us as a team it’s exciting more than anything else; it’s a chance for us to go out there on a big stage and show what we can do,” he added.

“We’ve worked hard to get ourselves here, we’ve had a few big games over the last couple of years that we can draw on as experience and we want to keep having these big games.

“To go to the Aviva and get a win would be huge for us.”

Tickets to the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final is on 27 May at Twickenham are now on sale. If you want to have an unforgettable day out at club rugby’s best Cup Final then click here for tickets.

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