Wasps have named a team to face Exeter in Saturday’s Premiership final that features eleven of the starting XV and 18 of the matchday 23 that defeated Bristol in the October 10 semi-final at the Ricoh.

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The Coventry-based club had been plunged into Covid-19 turmoil after failed virus tests in the week following that win. The outlook was so concerning at one stage that Bristol were even put on standby last weekend to take Wasps’ place in the final.

However, after getting the all-clear at 2.30am on Wednesday morning following a further round of testing, coach Lee Blackett said on Thursday that he would have a squad of 33 to pick from after five earlier positive player virus tests would rule out a total of eleven from selection due to close contact protocols.

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From nowhere men to title challengers – Lee Blackett on the Wasps transformation in 2020

Wasps have now declared their hand for the Premiership final and the four changes in the starting XV are centre Juan de Jongh for Malakai Fekitoa, who limped out of the semi-final with a groin injury, Tom West for Simon McIntyre at loosehead, Jeff Toomaga-Allen for Kieran Brookes at tighthead, and Tom Willis for No8 Brad Shields.

The bench against Bristol had a six/two forwards and backs split, but that will be five/three for the final with Exeter. Ben Harris comes in due to West’s promotion to the starting XV, Ben Morris replaces Alfie Barbeary, while the inclusion of Tom Willis to start at No8 frees up a slot in the backs for the versatile Lima Sopoaga to join the replacements.

In a statement, Wasps explained: “Brad Shields, Kieran Brookes, Simon McIntyre and Alfie Barbeary are unavailable after being ruled out due to contact tracing protocols. Malakai Fekitoa misses out through a groin injury picked up against the Bears.”

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Wasps boss Blackett added: “If we are all being honest, it hasn’t been ideal preparation, but I have to give credit to the players because they have coped with it admirably.

“A lot of credit must also go to the staff, especially team manager Dave Bassett, head of medical Ali James and club doctor Ralph Mitchell. The amount of work that they have put in behind the scenes to allow us to play in this game is phenomenal.

“It has been a difficult week in terms of all of that, but the one thing that we spoke about at the start of the season is being adaptable. Now the players will do everything they can to put in a performance on Saturday. We know it will be tough, Exeter deservedly finished top of the league this season, but we are confident with the form that we can take into the game.”

WASPS (vs Exeter, Saturday)

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15 Matteo Minozzi (18 club appearances)
14 Zach Kibirige (25)
13 Juan de Jongh (58)
12 Jimmy Gopperth (105)
11 Josh Bassett (126)
10 Jacob Umaga (30)
9 Dan Robson (123)
1 Tom West (33)
2 Tommy Taylor (70)
3 Jeff Toomaga-Allen (20)
4 Joe Launchbury (capt) (151)
5 Will Rowlands (93)
6 Jack Willis (61)
7 Thomas Young (119)
8 Tom Willis (21)

Replacements
16 Gabriel Oghre (28)
17 Ben Harris (64)
18 Biyi Alo (15)
19 James Gaskell (120)
20 Ben Morris (29)
21 Ben Vellacott (8)
22 Lima Sopoaga (42)
23 Michael Le Bourgeois (35)

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