Wasps v Gloucester preview: Cherry and Whites welcome back Laidlaw for trip to Wasps
Wasps welcome Gloucester to the Ricoh Arena in the Aviva Premiership on Sunday: 3 pm kick-off
All Blacks’ utility back Charles Piutau is set to make his Wasps’ debut
Ruaridh Jackson makes his first Premiership start of the season at fly-half for the Coventry-based side
Scotland Skipper Greg Laidlaw makes his return to the Gloucester starting XV
BY BRAD POOLE
Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw, who was short-listed for World Rugby Player of the Year, makes his return to the Gloucester starting XV for their difficult Aviva Premiership trip to Wasps on Sunday.
Laidlaw will start at scrum-half in a new-look Gloucester half-back partnership at the Ricoh Arena, with Billy Burns starting his first game of the season at fly-half while James Hook moves to inside centre.
For Wasps, All Blacks’ utility back Charles Piutau is set to make his Wasps’ debut, after joining the club last week. Starting at fullback, he partners former Auckland Blues’ team-mate Frank Halai in the backline.
Ben Jacobs returns from injury to line up alongside Elliot Daly in the hosts midfield while Ruaridh Jackson makes his first Premiership start of the season at fly-half, reforming is efficient half-back partnership with Joe Simpson.
Gloucester have made a good start to the Premiership season, winning two of their three games so far, including a victory last time out against local rivals Worcester and currently occupy fifth place in the Premiership table.
Wasps, on the other hand, have won just one of their three opening fixtures, which came back in week two when they beat Bath 16-9.
The last time these two sides met back in march Wasps were the runaway victory, beating the Cherry and Whites 32-21. In fact Wasps haven’t lost to Gloucester in the last five match ups in the Premiership.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Wasps: Joe Launchbury
Wasps need a big performance form one of their key players to kick-start their season, and this towering second-rower has the answer. He can help his side dominate the scrum and win turnovers for his team. If he gets the ball in hand he can find gaps and power through defenders. The home side need a big performance from Launchbury.
Gloucester: Billy Burns
There will be a lot of pressure on this young man to deliver on the big occasion, but the 21 year old has shown before why he is a rising star in the division and capable of becoming a big player for Gloucester. He has weapons in the back line he can utilise if he passes the ball well, and his kicking game from hand will have to be spot on, like it normally is. He can win this game for Gloucester.
Wasps: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Ben Jacobs, 11 Christian Wade, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 George Smith, 6 James Haskell (c), 5 Bradley Davies, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Carlo Festuccia, 1 Simon McIntyre.
Replacements: 16 Ashley Johnson, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19 James Gaskell, 20 Guy Thompson, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Sailosi Tagicakibau.
Gloucester: 15 Charlie Sharples, 14 David Halaifonua, 13 Billy Twelvetrees (c), 12 James Hook, 11 Jonny May, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Ben Morgan 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paddy McAllister.
Replacements: 16 Chris Brooker, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Ross Moriarty, 20 Jacob Rowan, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Henry Purdy, 23 Rob Cook
Date: Sunday, November 8
Venue: Ricoh Arena
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant referees: Darren Gamage, Robin Goodliffe
TMO: David Sainsbury