Wasps’ Director of Rugby Dai Young gives his immediate reaction to the 2015/16 Aviva Premiership fixtures, which were announced this morning.
"It’s pretty exciting looking through the fixture list," said Young. "Obviously you’ve got to play every team at some stage, but in saying that, it still gives you a buzz when you see club names in black and white and you can start planning and looking at who we’ll be up against at key stages of the season.
"First and foremost, it’s our first full season at the Ricoh Arena and that’s something we’re all looking forward to. We were fortunate to have plenty of highlights in our first six months at the Ricoh, with a couple of record crowds and some big games, so we’re looking forward to a season of that and we will also be welcoming teams to Coventry who haven’t played us here before."
With so many crunch games coming up at the Ricoh Arena, it’s hard to select only a handful that stand out, but Young did his best to select the Aviva Premiership clashes that jumped off the page at him:
"We open our home campaign against Aviva Premiership finalists Bath Rugby, so that’s a massive fixture for us as the season gets up and running. With away games against Harlequins and Leicester Tigers either side of that one, we’ll need to be on our mettle from the get go and I’m sure our supporters will be circling that game as we speak.
"Bath and Wasps are two of the most attacking minded teams in the Premiership, so I’m sure it will be an entertaining match to watch as a spectator. With Bath also in our European Champions Cup group, both sides will be looking to put a marker down, so there’ll be an added edge to the fixture.
"There’s bags of rugby early doors, with Gloucester also coming to the Ricoh before we break from the Aviva Premiership for one hell of a European Champions Cup pool. They talk about the competition being the best of the best and we certainly pulled the best! We have the reigning European Champions Toulon, three-time winners Leinster and of course Bath, so there’s some really exciting rugby coming our way at the Ricoh, with superstars of the game en route to Coventry."
As the English clubs switch back to the Aviva Premiership at the end of November, Wasps travel to Twickenham HQ on Saturday 28 November, to take on the home team London Irish in the London Double Header. Saracens v Worcester form the other half of the Double Header, which is staged later this season due to Rugby World Cup 2015 kicking off in September. The following week, the men in black and gold are back home against Exeter Chiefs.
Another section of the fixture list that eyes are immediately drawn towards is the festive period and some of the Premiership’s most recognisable names will feature on Wasps’ Christmas guest list at the Ricoh Arena:
"We’ve got the Aviva Premiership Champions Saracens over Christmas, which will be a really nice one for our supporters to get their teeth into. That should be another cracking atmosphere. Supporters can enjoy Christmas Day and Boxing Day with friends and family and still have something to look forward to on 27th December," said Young.
Wasps then face a tough trip north to Sale Sharks to start the New Year, before returning to the Midlands for some new local derbies, against Worcester Warriors at the Ricoh and Northampton Saints at Franklins Gardens in Rounds 9 and 10.
Week on week, the challenges keep coming and with no LV=Cup games this season, Young appreciates how much of a test of endurance it will be and how important the depth of the squad could prove: "There won’t be any easy games this season that’s for sure. It gets more and more competitive every year, but that’s the kind of league you want to be part of. Any team can beat any other team on their day."
Three local derbies out of Wasps’ last seven games should also sprinkle an extra bit of spice on the end of season run in:
"It’s likely to be a nail biter of a finish again looking at the run in we have, that’s for sure," admitted Young. "We’ve got Leicester Tigers and Northampton Saints at home and Worcester Warriors away, so we’d love to play our part in a special derby atmosphere, in front of another big crowd like the 32,000 we had for Tigers.
"Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park will be a tough penultimate game and, in the final game of the regular season against London Irish, we know it could go either way, or end in a draw, as we saw last season!
"Every game is an important game, every game is a big game to win. It’s going to be a really exciting Premiership battle again and we’re looking forward to the challenge, starting away at Harlequins on 17 October.”
For the full fixture list to visit www.wasps.co.uk/fixtures-results
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As the fixture list stands, the majority of Wasps’ games will be played on a Saturday. However, as originally explained, there will be a mixture of Sunday games and a small number of games may be moved to Sunday for TV picks going forwards.