Wasps v Toulon preview: Last year’s champions head to the Ricoh
Wasps clash with Toulon in the Champions Cup at the Ricoh Arena this afternoon: 17:15 kick-off
Skipper James Haskell returns to Wasps’ starting XV
Bryan Habana, Juan Fernandez Lobbe and Steffon Armitage all named in the Toulon’s star-studded run-on team
Captain James Haskell returns to Wasps’ starting line-up as they host Toulon at the Ricoh Arena in the Champions’ Cup this afternoon.
After recovering from injury, Haskell slots into the back-row alongside George Smith and Nathan Hughes – the only change to the starting side which hammered Leinster 33-6 in Dublin last weekend.
The only other change comes on the bench where tighthead Lorenzo Cittadini returns following a one-match suspension.
Last week’s Man of the Match Charles Piutau will be hopeful of another stellar outing, while wing men Christian Wade and Frank Halai, also dangerous last time out, will be looking to continue their fine recent form.
In the visiting camp, Toulon have picked a star-studded line up for the trip to Coventry with Bryan Habana, Juan Fernandez Lobbe and Steffon Armitage all named in the starting 15.
And new recruit Quade Cooper, arguably one of Toulon’s biggest ever signings, gets his first taste of European rugby this afternoon, taking the number ten shirt, while former Springbok Juan Smith captains the side from the scrum.
This looks set to be one of the games of the weekend as Wasps, still buzzing fro their stunning triumph in Ireland last weekend, face up to the big-spending Toulon club, whose side is packed with talent wherever you look. The visitors come into the game as favourites, but could be rusty, while Wasps’ undeniable continuity and team spirit could carry them through. Wasps by 3.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Wasps: James Haskell
After Wasps pulled off one of their best performances in years last week, captain Haskell will be keen to prove his worth in arguably the biggest game of Wasps’ season so far. The 62-cap England man could be a crucial part of a forward effort if they are to stifle Toulon’s fearsome pack and starve their backs of service.
Toulon: Quade Cooper
Making his European debut at fly half, the gifted New Zealand-born Wallaby, a veteran of 58 international appearances, is entering his peak years at the age of 27. One of the most sought after talents in world rugby, he will be crucial if Toulon are to take home some silverware this year, starting this afternoon.
Wasps: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Ben Jacobs, 11 Frank Halai, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 George Smith, 6 James Haskell (c), 5 Bradley Davies, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Carlo Festuccia, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 Ashley Johnson, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Lorenzo Cittadini, 19 James Gaskell, 20 Sam Jones, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Sailosi Tagicakibau.
Toulon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Jonathan Pelissie, 8 Steffon Armitage, 7 Juan Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Juan Smith (c), 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Anthony Etrillard, 1 Xavier Chiocci.
Replacements: 16 Bastien Soury, 17 Florian Fresia, 18 Levan Chilachava, 19 Duane Vermeulen, 20 Mamuka Gorgodze, 21 Theo Belan, 22 Sebastien Tillous-Borde, 23 Konstantine Mikautadze.
Date: Sunday, November 22
Venue: Ricoh Arena
Kick-off: 17:15 GMT
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Dudley Phillips (Ireland), Leo Colgan (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)