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'Effectively the Irish national team'

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Wasps' mixed week is about to get tougher and they know it

Facing current Champions Cup and PRO14 title holders Leinster is not most teams idea of fun, and Wasps head coach Dai Young could hardly hide that fact ahead of their Pool 1 clash at the Ricoh.

This week has been a mixed bag for Wasps, it began positively with a new deal confirmed for loosehead Zurabi Zhvania, but then Willie Le Roux and Nathan Hughes and Will Stuart’s departures were confirmed. Coming in the other door are All Black duo Malakai Fekitoa and tighthead Jeff Toomaga-Allen, along with Exeter Chiefs tighthead prop Jack Owlett. To finish it with an unlikely upset win would sum up a topsy-turvy seven days for the Coventry-based club.

Leinster handed out a 52-3 thrashing to Wasps in Round 1 and the Gallagher Premiership side have only managed a single draw and four defeats overall so far in a chastening European campaign.

“It’s certainly a tough prospect, facing what is effectively the Irish national team just before the Six Nations. They’ll all be vying to impress to earn the green jersey in the coming weeks and they’ll want to do the job for Leinster,” Wasps Director of Rugby Dai Young said.

“We need to make sure we’re somewhere near our best or else it could be a tough day and we certainly don’t want that at home against any opposition.

“Leinster are a quality team as we’ve seen out there in Dublin. We were in that game for 45 minutes but then they changed gear and we couldn’t live with that. We certainly don’t want a repeat of that.

“You’ve got to keep hold of the ball and you can’t switch off as they’ve got guys that can hurt you from anywhere on the field. You don’t want them getting an early lead and getting momentum as they’re very hard to turn around.”

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And although the likes of Johnny Sexton, Rob Kearney and Dan Leavy are absent through injury, Leinster are able to restore Robbie Henshaw to the centre, Devin Toner to the second row, while flanker Sean O’Brien is in line for his first Leinster appearance since October from the bench – not a bad trio to be able to summon.

For Wasps Elliot Daly is restored to the starting line-up after a compulsory week off due to his involvement in England’s Autumn Internationals, while Gaby Lovobalavu is handed his first Wasps start since November in place of Juan de Jongh (shoulder).

Recent Wales call-up Thomas Young is also out with a shoulder knock and is replaced by Nizaam Carr, with Jake Cooper-Woolley swapping with Will Stuart at tighthead in the starting 15.

Leinster will be chasing a bonus point in order to try and lock down a home quarter-final, seldom have there been hectic weeks like this for Wasps, both on and off the pitch.

Wasps (First-team appearances)
15. Rob Miller (93)
14. Josh Bassett (93)
13. Michele Campagnaro (5)
12. Gaby Lovobalavu (23)
11. Elliot Daly (187)
10. Lima Sopoaga (16)
9. Dan Robson (94)
1. Zurabi Zhvania (15)
2. Tom Cruse (51)
3. Jake Cooper-Woolley (123)
4. Joe Launchbury (c) (134)
5. Will Rowlands (65)
6. Brad Shields (9)
7. Nizaam Carr (25)
8. Nathan Hughes (118)

Replacements
16. Ashley Johnson (175)
17. Ben Harris (36)
18. Will Stuart (24)
19. Charlie Matthews (9)
20. Ben Morris (10)
21. Craig Hampson (26)
22. Billy Searle (10)
23. Marcus Watson (18)

Leinster Rugby (caps in brackets):
15. Jordan Larmour (32)
14. Adam Byrne (47)
13. Garry Ringrose (59)
12. Robbie Henshaw (31)
11. Dave Kearney (129)
10. Ross Byrne (61)
9. Jamison Gibson-Park (64)
1. Jack McGrath (138)
2. Seán Cronin (165)
3. Tadhg Furlong (95)
4. Devin Toner (226)
5. James Ryan (25)
6. Rhys Ruddock (154) CAPTAIN
7. Josh van der Flier (70)
8. Jack Conan (84)

Replacements:
16. James Tracy (82)
17. Cian Healy (201)
18. Andrew Porter (44)
19. Scott Fardy (34)
20. Seán O’Brien (121)
21. Hugh O’Sullvan (6)
22. Noel Reid (112)
23. Rory O’Loughlin (53)

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Wasps' mixed week is about to get tougher and they know it