Lee Blackett has admitted that his Wasps players are having to deal with a unique problem in trying to prepare for a Gallagher Premiership play-off semi-final without knowing who the opposition will be at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday.
With Sale’s postponed game with Worcester still scheduled to go ahead on Wednesday evening, Wasps won’t know until the final whistle if they are hosting Bristol or Sale.
Wasps boss Blackett said: “The hardest thing is to do most of our preparation without knowing who we are playing as we looked at two totally different ways of playing. You have Bristol who are fairly unique and Sale who play a totally different style.
“We played Bristol a couple of weeks ago and so we have done most of our prep and it wasn’t that long ago that we played Sale and while it is a slight disadvantage, we will focus on ourselves.
“In every game, it is about how we can impose our game on the opposition and top four was always our target. We are pretty healthy going into the semi-final with only Rob Miller having been injured. It looks like he has done something to his knee and is going to see a specialist. He could be out for a couple of months.”
"He gives us that big physical edge and we don’t want to tweak him too much"- Wasps boss Lee Blackett is still singing…
Blackett can take some comfort from knowing that England lock Joe Launchbury and livewire flanker Jack Willis, who has won a staggering 43 turnover this season, will be fit to return to a Wasps team that won eight of its last nine matches to finish in second place behind Exeter.
Wasps could be facing the same Sale side on Saturday that is playing on Wednesday night, giving the Sharks very little recovery time. “Backing up physically you can be a little bit tired, but the big thing is going to be emotionally and I imagine a semi-final is going to get any side up for i. It’s not ideal preparation for them.”
The Wasps defence is led by former All Black Malakai Fekitoa in the backs and England flanker Brad Shields up front and both New Zealanders have regained their best form at the most important time of the season. Shields had been dogged by foot injury problems but showed in the 46-5 win over Exeter that he is back to his ball-carrying best while Fekitoa put a massive hit on Exeter’s Tom Wyatt that will be replayed regularly on social media.
Blackett said: “When it gets to this stage it is the defence that matters and it wins competitions. Over the last few years we have been a bit on the small side, quick with the ability to beat people but at times lacked that edge and Malakai gives us that. Just look at how that hit at the weekend raised spirits, and he offers us so much in attack and defence.
“He is pretty pivotal to how we play and you should see how hard that guy works off the field. He doesn’t have an ounce of fat and is pure muscle. He came back after the lockdown in unbelievable condition. Brad is that unsung hero for us in the back row and gives us that extra jumper and is one of our big leaders. He does a lot of the dirty work.”
The Kiwis have been teaching Eddie a thing or two https://t.co/gL9TXKs58e
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 6, 2020
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