Young expecting tough run-in

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Published: Saturday 7th March 2015 by The News Editor

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Aviva Premiership form club Wasps will continue their push for the play-offs on Sunday with rugby director Dai Young admitting this season’s top-four race could hardly be tighter.

Although runaway leaders Northampton appear nailed on for a home semi-final in May, effectively five clubs – Wasps, Bath, Saracens, Exeter and Leicester – are chasing three places behind them.

Saracens are next up for Wasps at the Ricoh Arena, with Young’s men having collected 22 points from their last six Premiership games to put themselves firmly in play-off contention.

“This is a massive game for both teams,” he said.

“I am not sure I can remember a time when the table has been this tight at this stage of the season.

“You could just as easily find yourself in seventh place or second place on the back of one result.

“We know that we are up against a side on Sunday who are used to winning.

“Saracens are a quality team who will look to put us under pressure with their kicking game and will try to squeeze us up-front.

“They have a very good set-piece and strong defence, but they also have individual players with the flair to score tries if you give them opportunities.

“We produced periods of high-quality rugby last Sunday (against Gloucester) to pick up the five-try win, which was a glimpse of how good we can be.

“But we were also very sloppy in parts, and it was nowhere near the 80-minute performance we keep talking about. That will be our focus again this weekend.”

Lock Bradley Davies returns from Wales commitments to pack down for Wasps, with Italy prop Lorenzo Cittadini also starting in a team captained by Matt Mullan. Behind the scrum, wing Sailosi Tagicakibau is back, and Andrea Masi has recovered from a leg injury to provide full-back and centre cover on the bench.

England trio Alex Goode, Richard Wigglesworth and Mako Vunipola all make an immediate return to Premiership action for Saracens, meanwhile, with Jim Hamilton called up to partner Alistair Hargreaves in the second-row and Chris Wyles taking over from rested wing David Strettle.

In Sunday’s other Premiership clash, Leicester will look to extend a long unbeaten record against Newcastle when they travel to Kingston Park.

The Tigers have won 10 successive games in all competitions at Falcons’ expense, while only Exeter and Northampton have displayed better league form on the road this season than Leicester.

Newcastle boss Dean Richards has made three changes for his former club’s visit to the north-east.

Scrum-half Ruki Tipuna replaces an injured Mike Blair, while prop Alex Rogers takes over from Juan Pablo Orlandi, who has a pectoral muscle injury, and fit-again flanker Richard Mayhew returns to the back row.

England hooker Tom Youngs will captain Leicester for the first time when Tigers look to build on last weekend’s comfortable win against Sale Sharks.

Youngs is joined in the starting line-up by his fellow England forwards Geoff Parling and Tom Croft, with one change behind the scrum seeing wing Niall Morris returning to action.

Published: Saturday 7th March 2015 by The News Editor

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