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Joe Launchbury out to make amends after last year’s European semi-final defeat

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Captain Joe Launchbury is eagerly anticipating the chance to right the wrongs of Wasps’ semi-final defeat to Saracens last season when the European Rugby Champions Cup returns, this weekend.

Back-row Sam Jones is expected to miss the first two rounds of European action due a fractured fibula picked up while training with England.

But with Zebre the first visitors to the Ricoh Arena, 25-year-old Launchbury is optimistic the Aviva Premiership Rugby side can still hit the ground running.

And he admits there is extra motivation as they seek to rectify the mistakes of last season that saw them lose a Champions Cup semi-final 27-17, to eventual champions Saracens, at the Madejski Stadium.

Launchbury said: “We had a really good run last year; we got to the semi-finals and absolutely loved our time in Europe playing away from home and playing at home against big teams.

“We want to try and replicate that as best we can.

“Probably the main lesson we have learnt so far is that it’s vital to get your best game out during those big games and that was the frustration from last year.

“I felt we worked really hard to get to that position, beating Exeter in the last kick of the game in the quarter-finals, and having the opportunity to play in the semi-finals.

“You always want to play your best game and we didn’t for whatever reason that day and I think that was the overriding frustration.”

Wasps will be competing in the Champions Cup for a third successive season and have been placed in Pool 2 with Zebre, Connacht Rugby and Toulouse.

And Launchbury believes his side will be the ones to watch, following a blistering start to their Aviva Premiership Rugby campaign, so far.

He added: “Personally I absolutely love playing in the Champions Cup, I grew up watching this competition and the huge clashes and seeing the rivalries come out in the club format.

“It’s a big deal to me and as a club we have been striving to play in this competition. We had a few years in the competition below, we enjoyed our time there but it’s nothing like playing in this competition.

“We have a tough group like we did last year so first and foremost we have to get through the first block of two, get some early wins and see where it takes us.

“There’s never an easy group in Europe and that is the joy of the competition.

“That’s why everyone is so desperate to play in it, because it truly tests you as a team.”

European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) is the organiser of the European Rugby Champions Cup, the European Rugby Challenge Cup and the Challenge Cup Qualifying Competition.

Follow all the excitement of another thrilling season of European action at www.epcrugby.com

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