London Irish coach Glenn Delaney insists London Wasps’ visit to the Madejski Stadium this weekend won’t be a repeat of the humiliation the Exiles suffered against their capital rivals back in September.
Delaney watched on as Wasps hammered the Exiles 43-14 in the Aviva Premiership, Tom Varndell and Stephen Jones particularly impressing – but the London Irish forward’s coach insists his players have made dramatic improvements in the months since.
Their two-game winning run in the Aviva Premiership may have come shuddering to a half last weekend as they were beaten 40-16 by Bath but Delaney, who has seen London Irish win their last three games at the Madejski Stadium in all competitions, is predicting a return to form against high-flying London Wasps.
“The key thing is that we are defending far better and we’re far more confident, and this aspect of the game wasn’t our strongest part back in September,” said Delaney, whose side play in the televised live Sky game on Sunday lunchtime.
“We were ahead at half-time in that game and we blew it in the second-half, so we do know that if we do get in a contest with them we will have to make sure we play the full 80 minutes – they’ve got electric players.
“Tom Varndell, Joe Simpson and Elliot Daley are fantastic talents – if we match these guys then we’ll give ourselves a good opportunity to win.
“We need to make sure that we shut down their attacking back three, so defensively we’ll have to be sharp because they have a knack for scoring exceptional tries out of nothing.
“And outside that we need to manage the field and make sure we are putting pressure on them in the right parts of the pitch but playing at home we’re feeling very confident so we are looking forward to getting back to the Madejski.”
London Wasps are the form team in the Aviva Premiership at present, having won their last five Premiership encounters since their 23-30 reversal at Exeter on December 1.
Wasps have lost only one of their last five away games in all competitions: 34-8 at Leicester in the LV= Cup on 26 January, while they have also won their last two games against London Irish.
And after seeing his side dip deep to overcome Gloucester last weekend 33-29 – London Wasps’ director of rugby Dai Young is expecting a repeat performance against Premiership strugglers London Irish.
"I have no doubt they are targeting their home games hard and the fact that they beat Saracens there last time out highlights that,” said Young.
“I think they have quality players across their team and I am surprised they are where they are in the table. We know that they are desperate for points and we know what that feels like after last year.
"There are some tough games coming up and we know we've got Gloucester and Northampton breathing down our necks but we're enjoying being up there.
“Top six is now a very realistic target for us and if we can secure Heineken Cup qualification after what we went through last year that will be a huge boost."
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth (60th Premiership game)
Assistant Referees: Ian Tempest & Andrew Watson. TMO: David Grashoff