TOP BAR - Fixtures

Launchbury itching to taste Ricoh Arena atmosphere

Joe Launchbury could hardly have asked for a bigger occasion to make his injury return for Wasps as they prepare to host Leicester Tigers at a sold-out Ricoh Arena.

In a match that could have drastic Aviva Premiership Rugby semi-final implications, Wasps boss Dai Young could welcome England lock Launchbury back into the fold.

The 24-year-old is expected to take his place on the bench on Saturday as Wasps – lying in sixth, just three points behind Leicester in fourth – look to sneak in the top four.

Since moving to Coventry in December, Young’s side have suffered just one home defeat in the league and Launchbury is eager to help ensure that is still the case by Sunday morning.

“I've not played at the Ricoh yet,” he said. “I’ve been up to watch every game but it'll be a lot better to be there as a player than a spectator.

“The boys speak of how great it is to play there and next weekend is going to be a great occasion in a sold-out stadium.

“It's always tough against Leicester. Even before we moved they were our big rivals back from when both teams were so successful in the Premiership and I guess it's intensified now as they're our local rivals. It's a big game, a huge game given where the league is.

“We need to win if we've got any aspirations of going further up the table and it's exciting, it's what you want to be involved in as a player, and a great game for me to be coming back into.

“It's really tight at the top, it's been tight all season, and we've engineered a bit of a gap now to finish in the top six which is what our season's objective always has been, if anything else opens up now then a win against Leicester will set us up for that.”

As for Launchbury, who has been out since October with a neck injury, there is not much time to press his case for World Cup selection.

One way of doing that would be to prolong the season with Wasps, by reaching the semi-finals and impressing England head coach Stuart Lancaster.

He added: “The injury is progressing nicely and I'm looking to get back in some form against Leicester.

“It's pretty much on schedule. The saving grace of the injury, I suppose, is having been out for so long I'm now itching to get back out there and I'm feeling fresh at exactly the right time – very different to this time last year at the end of a full season! Hopefully I can take advantage of it.”

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