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Medical updates to shape crucial Midlands derby

By Chris Jones
Thomas Young has been given the all-clear

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Unbeaten Leicester and injury ravaged Wasps face anxious waits to discover if they are able to field key back row forwards in their clash at the Coventry Building Society Arena on Sunday or face the prospect of using players out of position.

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Captain Brad Shields limped out of Wasps loss 26-18 to Sale to further complicate the club’s long injury list which has removed up to 18 players from the selection meetings held by Lee Blackett, the head coach this season. At least the promising Alfie Barbeary was able to play 70 minutes at No 8 – his longest run out since returning from an eight-month lay off – although he had to overcome a nose injury against Sale to complete the contest.

Blackett is refusing to use injury set backs as an excuse and said: ”We are slowly building Alfie up and he is not a millions away from a full 80 minutes and we cannot be just sitting around for injured players to come back and we have to get through this. We are not waiting for people to come back – we cannot afford to do that in this competition.”

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West on playing for France
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Blackett has to hope Wales international flanker Thomas Young – out with a thumb injury suffered against London Irish – is able to return to battle it out with a Leicester back-row that has also been struck down by injury, a playing ban and COVID protocols. The Tigers made it 15 unbeaten games this season with a 31-0 victory over a disappointing Newcastle side but finished the game with England hooker Nic Dolly and Fiji wing or full back Kini Murimurivalu in their back row.

Tigers, who were already without South African trio Hanro Liebenberg, the banned Jasper Wiese and Marco van Staden, lost Ollie Chessum before kick off leading to just four forwards being named on the bench. As a result, Murimurivalu was added to the replacements and enjoyed his new role coming on in the 66th minute to replace the impressive George Martin who was playing No8. Dolly had replaced open side Tommy Reffell a minute earlier. However, Tigers know they will need back row specialists against their Midlands rivals who have Tom Willis in outstanding form.

Steve Borthwick, the Leicester head coach, paid tribute to Murimurivalu and said: “He’s a great rugby player, reads the game really well. When the situation happened, I had to make a decision and that was the decision I made, and he was delighted. If there’s one thing through this last year-and-a-half to two years, all of us have had to adapt.”

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