Wasps’ Director of Rugby Dai Young has named his side to take on Italian visitors Zebre Rugby, at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday (1pm kick off), in the opening round of this season’s European Champions Cup.
Joe Launchbury captains the side from the second row, starting alongside James Gaskell. Tom Cruse makes his second start for the club following a strong debut against Saracens. Tommy Taylor is named on the bench, after sickness ruled him out of last Sunday’s match.
Matt Mullan and Jake Cooper-Woolley start in the front row, with reinforcements on the bench coming in the form of Tom Bristow and Phil Swainston. Simon McIntyre is ruled out through an ankle injury while Marty Moore is forced to sit out due to a neck spasm.
Wasps’ side features the same back row as last week, with Guy Thompson returning from a groin strain to take a place on the bench.
In the back line, Kyle Eastmond makes his first start for Wasps and Frank Halai comes onto the right wing in place of Christian Wade, who misses out due to an oblique injury. Jimmy Gopperth is named on the bench having played every minute of every game so far this season.
Also on the bench is the welcome sight of Samoan international Alapati Leiua, who will perhaps receive the biggest cheer of the day if he comes on, having battled back to full fitness from two ACL reconstructions.
Ahead of the opening round, Dai Young said: “It’s always exciting to play in Europe’s top competition – you spend ten months working your socks off to get into it, so when it starts you really want to make the most of it. The best way to enjoy it is to get off to a good start and to do yourselves justice.
“We did well last year and probably exceeded everyone’s expectations by qualifying from the dreaded pool of death and progressing to the Semi Final. However, last year is last year. It counts for nothing this year. We must start afresh and put all our focus on trying to qualify from the group.
“We need to start with a really big performance on Saturday at home to Zebre Rugby. They are a proud team with plenty of Italian internationals in their squad and I expect them to come to the Ricoh Arena feeling they have nothing to lose.
“It will be great to welcome back Carlo Festuccia. Carlo’s a fantastic guy who keeps in touch with the boys here. He’s a quality player who was outstanding for us at Wasps and I’m sure he will play his socks off for Zebre. As much as we will enjoy catching up with him after the game, we need to make sure he doesn’t go home with too much of a smile on his face!”
Tickets are available from £15 with Under 10s going free, at the Ricoh Arena Ticket office and online at wasps.co.uk/tickets Please note Saturday’s early kick off time of 1pm.
Wasps team to play Zebre Rugby
- Rob Miller
- Frank Halai
- Elliot Daly
- Kyle Eastmond
- Josh Bassett
- Danny Cipriani
- Joe Simpson
- Matt Mullan
- Tom Cruse
- Jake Cooper-Woolley
- Joe Launchbury ©
- James Gaskell
- Ashley Johnson
- Thomas Young
- Nathan Hughes
- Tommy Taylor
- Tom Bristow
- Phil Swainston
- Matt Symons
- Guy Thompson
- Dan Robson
- Jimmy Gopperth
- Alapati Leiua
The following players are unavailable for selection:
Forwards: James Haskell (toe), Sam Jones (broken leg and ankle ligaments), Kearnan Myall (neck), Simon McIntyre (ankle), Marty Moore (neck spasm)
Backs: Christian Wade (oblique strain), Kurtley Beale (knee)
Willie Le Roux – to arrive February