After five seasons with Leicester Tigers, Tom Varndell knows all too well the challenge that awaits London Wasps as they return to domestic action at Welford Road on Sunday in front of the Sky cameras.
Both sides come into the televised clash on the back of European quarter-final defeats – Wasps overpowered by Leinster in the Amlin Challenge Cup and Tigers falling to Toulon in the Heineken Cup – but each have plenty at stake in the Aviva Premiership.
Despite a recent 22-13 home defeat to Saracens – a result that extended a somewhat unwanted run of successive Aviva Premiership defeats to four – Dai Young’s side are still within touching distance of a top-six berth.
Sitting just a point adrift of Bath Rugby, they will be looking to strongly re-assert their Heineken Cup credentials by upsetting their long-term rivals with what would be just a third Aviva Premiership away win since October 2011.
Closer to the summit of the table, Leicester can book play-off qualification with a positive result in what is their first home tie since a resounding 48-10 triumph over Sale Sharks on March 2.
Familiar with the raucous atmosphere on match-day in the East Midlands from either perspective, Varndell is poised for an extremely tough assignment.
“Welford Road is a fantastic place to go and play rugby and it’s one of the few specialised rugby stadiums left,” said the in-form wing.
“As someone who used to play there it is a place I know very well, but I have also been back there a few times since I left as part of the opposition.
“That means I know just how hard it is to get a result there and, as a team, we will have our work cut out for us this weekend.”
With 22 scores between them, Varndell and fellow flyer Christian Wade have been in prolific form and occupy the first two spots on the Aviva Premiership’s try-scoring chart.
While paying tribute to his team’s weekend opponents, Leicester hooker Tom Youngs insisted his side had done their homework on Wasps’ expansive approach.
“Wasps have been much improved from last season, their top four chances might be over but certainly the top six is a big goal for them and we will have to be at our best,” explained the front-row forward.
“We have spoken about their threat out wide – it does not take a genius to know how dangerous they are out there, so we will have to be very aware.
“And it will be great to be back at Welford Road, we’re all just looking forward to running out again at home. Our last three games have been away and now it is time for home comforts and a chance to seal a home play-off final.”
Referee: JP Doyle (60th Premiership game)
Assistant Referees: Peter Huckle & Gareth Copsey. TMO: Graham Hughes
The Aviva Premiership Rugby final has sold out for the last five years. To snap up one of the remaining tickets go to ticketmaster.co.uk or call 0844 844 0444