Trio’s re­turn is a huge boost for open­ing game

Coventry Telegraph - - RUGBY -

WASPS have been boosted by the re­turn of Eng­land in­ter­na­tion­als Joe Launch­bury and Nathan Hughes plus Kiwi fly-half Jimmy Gop­perth for tonight’s Euro­pean Cup opener in Belfast.

Chris­tian Wade, Jake Coop­erWool­ley, Dan Rob­son and Tom Cruse also re­turn to the start­ing line-up af­ter ap­pear­ing from the bench dur­ing last Sun­day’s de­feat at Sara­cens.

This means that de­spite still be­ing with­out ten play­ers, in­clud­ing the likes of Tommy Tay­lor, Kyle East­mond, Danny Cipri­ani and Matt Sy­mons, the black-and-golds en­ter Europe with a sub­stan­tially stronger XV than those fielded in re­cent weeks.

The bench also has a more ro­bust look, since fit-again prop Si­mon McIn­tyre is joined by ex­pe­ri­enced for­wards Marty Moore, Ash­ley John­son and James Gaskell, plus last week’s start­ing half-backs Joe Simp­son and Rob Miller as well as Mar­cus Wat­son.

Although Wasps have an ex­cel­lent record against Ul­ster in this com­pe­ti­tion, win­ning six of the clubs’ seven meet­ings, the most re­cent of th­ese was in 2001.

And with the two clubs hav­ing to date ex­pe­ri­enced con­trast­ing do­mes­tic cam­paigns, it is no sur­prise that book­mak­ers see the hosts as six-point favourites to claim a round-one win.

Ul­ster hand a Euro­pean de­but to Wal­laby fly-half Chris­tian Leal­i­fano, but all black-and-gold eyes will be look­ing fur­ther back, at their for­mer star Charles Pi­u­tau who starts at full-back.

They will be cap­tained from the sec­ond row by Iain Hen­der­son – the man con­tro­ver­sially se­lected for the Bri­tish & Ir­ish Lions ahead of Launch­bury. Les Kiss’s team con­tains 11 other in­ter­na­tion­als, but, like Wasps, Ul­ster are also with­out a host of in­jured big names, in­clud­ing their skip­per’s Lions’ team­mates Rory Best and Jared Payne and Ire­land’s Craig Gilroy.

Nathan Hughes runs with the ball dur­ing a Wasps train­ing ses­sion this week

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.