Wasps’ rise from relegation outsiders to top 4 contenders in a few short weeks epitomises just how crazy this Premiership season has been and if they beat Saracens this weekend, I’ve no doubt they’ll make it to the semi-finals.
In no other season would simply stringing back-to-back wins together in April have taken you from sitting just eight points above the bottom team to within three points of fourth place but that is what has happened to Wasps and now they have to seize the opportunity they’ve been given.
They have the toughest of tests against Saracens first up. Dai Young said he wanted Mark McCall to pick his strongest side and he’s got his wish. I’ve no idea why he wants to face the Premiership champions at their strongest though. As a Wasps ambassador, I was hoping for a second string to be sent to Coventry after their exertions in the Champions Cup last week.
That’s what happened a couple of years ago when Wasps beat them 35-15 at the start of May. Even Jim Hamilton got a start that day!
The likes of Harlequins, Bath and Northampton all have two of their last three games away from home where as Wasps have two at the Ricoh Arena. Ordinarily, that would be a major advantage but they’ve won just 4 of 14 home games in all competitions this season so it might not be the case.
Joe Launchbury will be a massive miss for this one but most of the other big names are fit again and Lima Sopoaga is starting to get the best out of them. He had a short spell out with a hand injury and I think that’s done him the power of good.
When you come back from an injury you quite often feel like you’ve got a new lease of life and he looks rejuvenated. He hasn’t had the benefit of the wisdom of Jimmy Gopperth outside him all season, which was always the masterplan, and it’s great to see him back on the bench.
Sopoaga taking the ball to the line and getting his offloading game going was a huge difference at Sandy Park but the biggest reason for the victory was an immense defensive display. That defence is going to have to be just as good if not better this weekend against a team that looks like the best in Europe at the minute.
It’s a tough ask to make the play-offs but I think they’ll do it. The win at Exeter in the last round was such a statement victory and now, even though they started Round 20 in fifth place, they’re in control of their own destiny with a game at home to Quins on the final day that could decide it.
Everyone can beat everyone else in this season’s Premiership but I think the top six at the start of this round will hold their nerve and still be in those positions when the curtain comes down on the campaign on May 18th, just not in the same order.
I’m backing Wasps to grab that final play-off berth on the final day with Quins and Northampton finishing fifth and sixth respectively and returning to the top tier of European rugby after just one season away.
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