Set-piece will be crucial to victory hopes
gives the lowdown on Wasps’ European Champions Cup clash at Ulster...
Wasps boss Dai Young will be keen to stamp out the errors which have hampered his side in recent weeks as they slipped to four straight defeats for the first time since 2014.
But Young will be pleased with the performance of his set-piece, which again functioned well for most of the contest against Saracens last Sunday.
Ulster have won 13 of their last 17 games against English opposition at the Kingspan.
They had the best lineout success rate in last season’s competition, claiming 96 per cent of their own throws.
It is therefore crucial that Wasps’ scrum and lineout continues to fire in order to provide their backs with a platform from which they can rediscover their attacking poise and give Ulster plenty to think about. IN advance of tonight’s European Cup opener in Belfast, Dai Young has made it crystal clear to his Wasps squad that he will not listen to excuses regarding fixture scheduling.
Others have plenty of sympathy for a situation which requires the blackand-golds to take on Ulster only five days after losing to Saracens, but in typically pragmatic fashion, Wasps’ boss is having none of it.
“I won’t accept that we can’t play well because it’s a five day turnaround. I’m not going to accept it and have made that pretty clear to the players,” he said.
“It’s not ideal, it’s not fair, and them having seven days and us five has obviously put us at a disadvantage.
“But there is no point in us whingeing about it. We have to deal with it, go there and give it our best shot, which I believe can be enough to win.
After accepting the reality of the situation, the next stage for Young was adapting his team’s preparation to face an Ulster side likely to include former Wasps favourite and global superstar Charles Piutau plus Aussie fly-half Christian Lealifano.
“You have to take down what you do so the physical grass time is reduced and replace it with more classroom work,” he said.
“You can’t change huge amounts or game-plans as you don’t have time, but you can tweak things even though you can’t go from A to Z.
“It puts pressure on you, but sometimes that’s good. Players go into it slightly anxious and that can help get them on their toes.
“We won’t change too much, but look to be more disciplined and on-the-money for 80 minutes.”
Young has plenty of experience of the Kingspan Stadium from his time playing and coaching in Wales, while Wasps also won there in an early-August pre-season run out.
And he believes his side will relish playing in front of a packed crowd in the ground formerly known as Ravenhill. “It’s probably a good time for us to come out of the Premiership and go into a new competition with the slate wiped clean,” he said. “When we went there in pre-season, it was more or less a sell-out and it was a great atmosphere which the boys enjoyed. It will be a great occasion and that’s what we want. “They will have ordered some rain in – I don’t think I have been there on a Friday night when it’s not
There is no point in us whingeing about it. We have to deal with it and give it our best shot, which I believe can be enough to win.
Wasps get their European Champions Cup campaign underway by visiting Pro-14 side Ulster tonight on the back of a four-match losing run. With just a five day turnaround from their 38-19 defeat to Saracens, the black-and-golds could not face a tougher test to kick off their European season.
Dai Young’s team have qualified for the knock-out stages for three successive seasons, but will need to lift their game to make it four. Ulster have enjoyed a solid start to the season and sit second in Pro-14’s Conference B with five wins, but did suffer a shock 27-23 loss to Zebre two weeks ago.
One of three professional Welsh officials, 27-year-old Ben Whitehouse will be the man-inthe-middle tonight.
Swansea-born Whitehouse is yet to hand out a yellow card in his four Pro-14 matches this campaign but he did dish out five in his three Champions Cup games last year.
Wasps are priced as 9/4 outsiders to start their European campaign with a win, with Ulster favourites at 4/11. The draw is available at 13/5.
This translates into a six point deficit in the handicap market for the black-and-golds.