Big match preview: Wasps v Leicester Tigers in Gallagher Premiership Rugby
There’s little doubting the headline clash in Round Three of the new Gallagher Premiership Rugby season.
Some rivalries are ingrained in teams’ complexions, and none more so than the competition that exists between Wasps and Leicester Tigers.
They renew hostilities at the Ricoh Arena next Sunday – here’s a look at the key details ahead of this highly-anticipated clash.
What’s at stake?
Bragging rights that extend much further than simple geographical proximity – but the 25 or so miles that separate these two sides nowadays also helps.
This will be the fifth time Wasps and Leicester have met at the Ricoh Arena since the former’s relocation to Coventry.
Clashes between these two have always been blood and thunder, and both sets of players will be desperate to lay down an early marker in Round Three of the 2018-19 season.
Form so far
The opening two rounds of the new Gallagher Premiership Rugby campaign have been a rollercoaster of emotions for both Wasps and the Tigers – however, they both have a win and a loss to show for their efforts so far.
In Round One, Wasps stretched their winning run against Worcester Warriors to nine games, a Billy Searle penalty handing them a tight 21-20 success at Sixways.
Last weekend, however, Wasps totted up 31 points but were undone at the Ricoh by reigning champions Exeter Chiefs, inspired by two-try duo Sam Simmonds and Henry Slade.
Exeter were Leicester’s conquerors in Round One, beating them 40-6 at Sandy Park.
But under new interim boss Geordan Murphy, the Tigers roared back with a vengeance in Round Two, George Ford racking up a whopping 29 points as they beat Newcastle Falcons 49-33.
Just once in the last four seasons has this derby gone the way of the team playing away from home.
That was in September 2016 when Wasps ran out 34-22 winners at Welford Road – Leicester will be looking to upset the apple cart this time around.
Of course, these two have also twice met with the greatest prize in Gallagher Premiership Rugby on the line in the 2004-05 and 2007-08 finals at Twickenham Stadium.
Wasps were victorious on both occasions.
The last time Wasps and the Tigers tussled was a certified humdinger, with Leicester edging their rivals 16-15 at Welford Road in March.
Elliott Daly’s first-half brace, which came after Sione Kalamafoni had gone over for the hosts, proved in vain for Wasps.
George Ford’s penalty four points from time won the day for the Tigers, who survived having both Nick Malouf and Telusa Veainu yellow-carded.
Could this showdown be the one where Wasps blood major summer import Lima Sopoaga?
The 26-year-old All-Black’s arrival at the Ricoh was confirmed all the way back in January and he could be in contention for his first start at fly-half.
England star Daly, who played at full-back against Exeter in Round Two and scored a superb opening try, is also one of the key weapons in Wasps armoury.
But Leicester have aces up their sleeve, none less than talented centre Manu Tuilagi, who is working his way back to his best after two years of injury problems.
And then, of course, the Tigers can always count on the reliable boot of England fly-half Ford.