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Wasps RFC vs Leinster Rugby
European Rugby Champions Cup Pool 2 Round 6
Ricoh Arena, Coventry,
Saturday, 24th December 2014, 13:00

Television: Live - BT Sports 2

Well after all of the results of the weekend were in, a wonderfully simple picture emerged for Leinster's task for this week.

Win and it's a home quarter-final.

The situation largely came about because of Bath's surprise win in Toulouse but it gives great clarity to Leinster's mission against Wasps. They don't need to worry about scoring a bonus point or denying Wasps one. They don't need to worry about scoring a certain amount of tries or getting their points difference to a certain amount to win a head to head battle.

They just need to win!

However, if they were not to win, they won't automatically be out of the competition. If they lose but gain a bonus point for finishing within seven, they will definitely finish second in the pool and would be likely to qualify on that total, although they'd need Clermont to beat Saracens to be sure.

If Leinster lose and gain no points at all, they will finish second only if Harlequins fail to gain 5 points on their trip to Castres. Even if that happens they will need a lot of other results to go their way as well and since Leinster are among the first teams playing every other team would know what they need to do to beat them. So, while they could go through on 18 points, it's certainly a lot less likely.

So hopefully Leinster will dismiss all such calculations by simply going out and winning. This is easier said than done however. Wasps looked dead and buried after they lost their first two rounds of games but they've fought back brilliantly to give themselves a chance. Last week they beat Harlequins 23-3 at the Stoop. It was a remarkable game in that Quins dominated possession and territory, but only scored three points.

Much was made of the Wasps defensive effort where they made 199 tackles, with skipper James Haskell leading the way on 28. However they still missed 26 tackles as well and were let off the hook by some terrible Harlequins decision-making and handling skills out wide. Harlequins did a number on their scrum in the first half, but got no reward for that either. Wasps were very strong at the breakdown though with Haskell, Ashley Johnson and Nathan Hughes proving to be a real handful.

Wasps have made just two changes to their starting team, both injury enforced. James Gaskell starts in the second row in place of Kearnan Myall, who picked up a knock last weekend but who is named the bench. Ben Jacobs starts in the centre in place of Alapati Leiua who got injured against Harlequins.

Leinster have also made just two change to the starting side, with Kane Douglas and Dominic Ryan coming into the pack in place of Mike McCarthy and Jack Conan. There is one further change on the bench where Isaac Boss replaces Luke McGrath.

It was nice to see Leinster constantly attack with the ball in hand last week, but don't expect things to be as gung-ho this time. In fairness it's a different game against properly motivated opponents who have shown they will fight right to the end. So expect more kicking from Leinster, although you'd hope it will at least be intelligent kicking and not just hoofing it up the middle and hoping for the best. Giving easy counter-attacking opportunities to wingers with the pace of Christian Wade and Tom Varndell would not be smart. However the game will be won and lost at the breakdown which is probably why Dominic Ryan got the nod over Jack Conan.

Leinster have played Wasps twice in England in the Heineken Cup and lost both times, so they know winning over there won't be easy. However if they play smart, accurate rugby in the right parts of the pitch, they can get a win and a home quarter-final which would greatly lift the mood on the whole season.

Finally the best of luck to the Leinster 'A' team who are away to Rotherham Titans in their quarter-final of the British and Irish Cup. They kick off an hour after the seniors and hopefully there will be double cause for celebration by four o'clock tomorrow afternoon.

Team Lineups

Wasps RFC

Leinster Rugby
Teams Rob Miller 15 Rob Kearney
Christian Wade 14 Fergus McFadden
Elliot Daly 13 Luke Fitzgerald
Ben Jacobs 12 Ian Madigan
Tom Varndell 11 Dave Kearney
Andy Goode 10 Jimmy Gopperth
Joe Simpson 9 Eoin Reddan

Matt Mullan 1 Michael Bent
Edd Shervington 2 Sean Cronin
Lorenzo Cittadini 3 Marty Moore
Bradley Davies 4 Devin Toner
James Gaskell 5 Kane Douglas
Ashley Johnson6 Dominic Ryan
James Haskell (C) 7 Jordi Murphy
Nathan Hughes8 Jamie Heaslip (C)

Replacements Carlo Festuccia 16 Richardt Strauss
Simon McIntyre 17 Jamie Hagan
Jake Cooper-Woolley 18 Tadhg Furlong
Kearnan Myall 19 Mike McCarthy
Guy Thompson 20
Jack Conan
Ed Jackson 21 Isaac Boss
Alex Lozowski 22 Gordon D'Arcy
Andrea Masi 23 Darragh Fanning

Not Considered
due to Injury
Chris Bell,
Tom Bliss,
Charlie Davies,
Will Helu,
Ruaridh Jackson,
Sam Jones,
Joe Launchbury,
Alapati Leiua,
Jack Moates,
Sailosi Tagicakibau,
John Yapp,
Thomas Young

Cian Healy,
Edward Byrne,
Sean O'Brien,
Rhys Ruddock,
Kevin McLaughlin,
Dan Leavy,
Zane Kirchner
Officials Referee: Jerome Garces (France),
Assistant Referees: Salem Attalah, Maxime Chalon (both France),
Fourth Official: Greg Macdonald (England),
Citing Commissioner: Alberto Recaldini (Italy),
TMO: Herve Dubes (France)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2015-01-23