For players, staff and fans of Wasps, the fortnight leading up to Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership final has been as tumultuous as they come. The very fact that they will be able to take the field with Exeter Chiefs at Twickenham may seem like a minor miracle after positive Covid-19 tests over the past week.
When further cases were reported last Monday, Bristol Bears looked set to replace them in the final. So after Lee Blackett revealed his team on Friday lunchtime to take on the newly crowned Heineken Champions Cup winners, the response has been rather positive considering the situation many may have envisaged.
There are casualties, however, with four starters from the team that beat Bristol in the semi-final absent. The front row has taken the biggest hit with both props, Simon McIntyre at loosehead and Kieran Brookes at tighthead, both unavailable, as is No8 Brad Shields.
Outside centre Malakai Fekitoa also misses out due to the injury he sustained in the opening minutes of the semi-final. The team will also have to make do without the services of the versatile Alfie Barbeary from the bench.
When Blackett said that he would be without eleven members of the squad on Saturday, there would have been those that feared the worst, particularly against a juggernaut in the form of the Chiefs. That is perhaps why the reaction is so upbeat.
All the speculation about their selection can now be put to bed https://t.co/fEZnee3K9n
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 23, 2020
With Exeter so powerful and efficient up front, losing two starting props is not ideal, but in the context of the past two weeks, many Wasps fans would have accepted these losses on Monday when their prospects of playing looked bleak.
Whether they were fielding a full-strength side or not, Wasps were always entering this match as underdogs. But that is a title they are perfectly comfortable with and have indeed thrived under.
The team were struggling at the foot of the table when Blackett took charge after Dai Young’s departure in February, so the turmoil of this past week will be nothing out of the ordinary considering the season they have had.
Given the COVID tests about as good as we can put out. Will miss Sheilds but shows the depth we have in back row! Strong depth for backs on the bench as well so much flexibility there.
— Tom Hickman (@hickmania23) October 23, 2020
Amazing news that you’ve been able to name such a strong team, given everything that’s happened. Racing 92 showed that Exeter are uncomfortable at a certain pace last Saturday. Start strong and don’t let them dominate!
— Finlay Morrison #SorryIWasOnMute (@FinMorrison) October 23, 2020
Decent side that, given all that has happened due to COVID. Amazing for the Willis brothers in the back row?
— Sam Eykyn (@sam_eykyn) October 23, 2020
While I’m sad for the lads who missed out, that is one hell of a talented team. Anyone who pulled on a Wasps shirt this season can take deep pride in getting the team here. One last effort #COYW #Believe
— Neil Morley ??3.5%? (@doogwasps) October 23, 2020
Strong team all things considering but I don’t think it’ll be enough sadly. However after the year we’ve had, to get ANY rugby, let alone to be in the final is amazing and I’m just hoping for great game ??
— Ash Bayliss (@AshOfTheShire) October 23, 2020
A couple of big misses here but a strong team nonetheless. A tough ask against a very powerful side but Wasps love a siege mentality.
Bring on tomorrow. https://t.co/BzFBOJXEj9
— Jack Meyer (@JL_Meyer) October 23, 2020
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