Elliot will lead Wasps as move talk persists
ELLIOT Daly captains Wasps against Toulouse at the Ricoh Arena today (5.30pm kick-off) while speculation of a summer move to Premiership champions Saracens goes on.
Numerous national newspapers have linked the British Lion with a move away from the Ricoh Arena despite being under contract until 2020. But the longserving Wasp retains the leadership role in Joe Launchbury’s continued absence heading into the must-win Heineken Champions Cup game against four-time winners Toulouse.
Tom Cruse has recovered from a rib injury, sustained in the dying embers of the 32-28 win over Bristol Bears, to start at hooker, while Ashley Johnson and Will Stuart are named on the bench.
Thomas Young has also proven his fitness after missing last week’s defeat to Saracens to start at flanker, with Nizaam Carr dropping to the bench.
There is one change in the backline, with top try-scorer Josh Bassett restored to the starting XV after being rested last week.
That means there is no place for new signing Michele Campagnaro, with Michael le Bourgeois and Daly the starting centres.
Ross Neal, who has been so impressive in recent weeks, continues his run in the side at winger.
It will be the first time this season that Wasps can select arguably their first-choice back row.
Thomas Young’s return from a calf issue sees him come in for Nizaam Carr on the openside flank to partner Brad Shields.
The influence of the Welshman is huge on this side with a high tackle count and hungry breakdown work, as well as ample contributions around the park with ball in hand.
If he can immediately pick up the kind of form he was enjoying prior to missing out on the trip to Saracens, it bodes well for freeing up Nathan Hughes to rampage at the heart of the Toulouse defence.
Shields, Young and Hughes has a classic back row feel to it with all bases covered. They’ve just to deliver dominant performances.
What the return of Young also provides is something explosive from the bench in the form of Nizaam Carr.
The knock-on impact of Wasps’ injury issues has been the weakening of the replacements in recent weeks.
But for this Heineken Champions Cup encounter, Dai Young can call upon the services of the South African trio of Carr, Juan de Jongh and Ashley Johnson. All of them can change a game.
But later today, all eyes will be on Daly for all manner of reasons.
The 26-year-old returned to Wasps after an autumn of fullback duties for England and rumours circulating over a switch to Saracens with a reported clause in his contract linked to the success of securing a permanent training ground venue. Back at his favoured outside centre position, he booted over a giant penalty against the Premiership champions but was guilty of a poor pass that gifted Nick Isiekwe a try metres from his own line.
The error has been followed by increased speculation, with national newspapers claiming Saracens are closing in on securing Daly’s signature, despite him being under contract until 2020.
Whatever is going on behind the scenes, Daly is a leader in this Wasps team as proven by his captaincy for this must-win game against Toulouse.
The British Lion is being selected in his favoured position and with the responsibility of leading the side, motivated by righting the wrongs at Allianz Park.
Elliot Daly retains his leadership role in the absence of Joe Launchbury