Must win game for Wasps – Young

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Published: Friday 23rd January 2015 by The News Editor

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Dai Young says Wasps face a “pretty clear scenario” in Saturday’s European Champions Cup showdown against Irish heavyweights Leinster as the scramble for quarter-final places continues at pace.

Heading into the final weekend of pool stage action, 11 teams still hold ambitions for seven remaining spots, with reigning European champions Toulon already through as Pool Three winners.

And while there are many mathematical permutations likely to unfold this weekend, the mission for Wasps is straightforward – beat Leinster at the Ricoh Arena, and they stay in European contention.

Given that Wasps lost their opening games in Pool Two against Leinster in Dublin and then at home to Harlequins, qualification would represent a considerable feat.

“There is an opportunity at the weekend for a massive emotional swing,” Wasps rugby director Young said.

“If we win at the weekend, we’re over the moon and we qualify. If we lose, we’re out.

“It’s a pretty clear scenario for us. We haven’t got to worry too much about permutations, that’s for sure.”

A Leinster win or draw would ensure they reach the knockout stages, but they will encounter a Wasps team that has claimed 14 points from its last three European games.

“I don’t think anybody would have thought six months ago that we’d be taking on Leinster in a winner-takes-all, so I think we’ve exceeded a lot of things,” Young added.

“And particularly going up against Leinster, with all the history and tradition. If we can get the result, that’s going to be the icing on the cake.

“We have improved every year. We’ve still got more to do, but off-field things are going well, and on-field we do believe we are a team now that is starting to compete with the big boys.”

Harlequins, meanwhile, are not quite out of the Pool Two equation, but even if they collect a five-point maximum away to Castres on Saturday, it will probably not be enough to claim one of three best runners-up spots available across five groups.

Pool Five rivals Northampton and Racing Metro meet at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday, with both teams looking set to march on.

The winners will progress and be guaranteed a home quarter-final tie, while a bonus point for the defeated team should also be enough. The clubs are currently locked on 19 points.

Racing beat Northampton in Paris three months ago and their Wales international centre Jamie Roberts said: “Saturday will be a huge day in the history of the club. I just hope we can win.

“With the squad we have here, and the facilities, it is possible for us to win the Champions Cup.

“We want to write a new page in the history of the club, but we know we will have to be at 100 per cent to win at Northampton.”

Saints are without injured full-back Ben Foden (knee) – James Wilson deputises – and lock Courtney Lawes (ankle), while England prop Alex Corbisero packs down in the front-row alongside Dylan Hartley and Salesi Ma’afu.

Northampton rugby director Jim Mallinder said: “It is going to be a great game.

“We have recovered from losing the first game (against Racing) and we have given ourselves a chance, which is all you can do.

“They are one of the best teams in Europe, but we know that we can beat them. If we do beat them, we’ve got the massive bonus of a home quarter-final, which is a huge incentive.”

Elsewhere on Saturday, Toulon head to the Scarlets in Pool Three, while second-placed Leicester need a bonus point victory over Belfast hosts Ulster to keep alive any realistic last-eight hope.

The Scarlets, who have already been eliminated, will face Toulon without four Wales RBS 6 Nations squad members because of injury – Liam Williams (shoulder), Samson Lee (neck), Jake Ball (thigh) and Gareth Davies (knee).

Sunday’s Champions Cup action sees Clermont Auvergne meeting Saracens in a Pool One decider, with Toulouse and Bath both hoping to progress from Pool Four.

A bonus point victory for Toulouse in Montpellier would mean they top the group, but a similar return for Bath at home to Glasgow should also ensure they progress, either as pool winners or a best runner-up.

Published: Friday 23rd January 2015 by The News Editor

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