Wasps v Leicester Tigers: Key Aviva Premiership semi-final talking points
By Emma Thurston | Twitter: @EmmaThurston23 |
Last Updated: 20/05/17 5:11pm
On Saturday afternoon, the Ricoh Arena will become the twelfth different venue to host an Aviva Premiership semi-final encounter.
Wasps and Leicester's local rivalry may be still in its infancy but clashes between the two always deliver and this knockout game will be an intense and bruising encounter.
It will be the Tigers' 12th successive appearance in the semi-finals - they've lost the last three - while Wasps have lost their last four semi-final appearances in all tournaments.
The question is, which can break the run and make it through to Twickenham? We take a look at some key focus areas ahead of Saturday's clash (kick-off 5.15pm)...
Stepping up to the mark
When it comes to knockout rugby - or as they call it in the southern hemisphere, 'finals footy' - a team's big names have to stand up and be counted for.
Both Wasps and Leicester house a wealth of talent including Willie le Roux, Danny Cipriani, Telusa Veainu and Peter Betham.
Clearly it's all about these individuals and others raising their performance levels for the knockout occasion.
This point is perhaps most pertinent for Wasps given what occurred in recently in their Champions Cup quarter-final at the Aviva Stadium.
The off day that they experienced - encompassing individuals and the collective - was a costly one and this Saturday they have to prove that was just an unfortunate one off.
Wasps' director of rugby Dai Young has made it clear what he's expecting: "We could win a lot of games without our really big players I believe. But when you get to semi-finals, quarter-finals, playing against the real top teams, that's when you need your best players to stand up.
"And that's why you bring marquee players in really, not just to get you to a top six finish, but hopefully also to make the difference between winning and losing in the real big games.
"That little bit of quality that can make the difference."
Of course, the same applies for the Leicester Tigers and there is no doubt about the fact that Matt O'Connor will be stressing that individual performances have to be on the money at the Ricoh Arena.
When it comes to the Premiership semi-finals, history shows that every home side has a distinct advantage.
Of course, the fact that a home side has an advantage isn't rocket science but it is likely to play more of a role in this semi-final than Saracens' trip to Sandy Park.
Wasps are the only side with a 100 per cent record at home during the regular season and maximum points at the Ricoh Arena has evaded them just twice.
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If you look back through Leicester's away trips in the Premiership this season they lost five on the road domestically and had three particularly heavy defeats in the Champions Cup.
While Coventry isn't far from Welford Road the visitors need to make sure that they make it feel like home and counter those statistics against them.
Focus on D
This week, both camps have highlighted the breakdown and contact area as being king.
It's no secret that Leicester will be looking to frustrate their hosts and disrupt the speed of ball. In fact, it's absolutely vital to do both when it comes to trying to contain Wasps.
Leicester's Geordan Murphy also highlighted to the Leicester Mercury that he wants to see an improvement in their tackle quality this weekend: "Our tackle quality has to be better.
"We missed a lot of shots against Worcester and, if we miss those shots against Wasps with the quality they have in their whole team, we will get beaten comprehensively.
"We have to stick to our tackles. We got in the right place but on occasion we fell off some shots. At times we didn't communicate and we got a little bit narrow. They are all areas we can work on and hopefully we will be spot on when we play Wasps."
Equally, Dai Young's side need to be on the money with their defensive performance and ensure that it is as pristine and as polished as their attack.
The 89 tries that Wasps have scored this Premiership season have eclipsed anyone else, however, they have let in 61 in comparisons to Saracens conceding 28.
Wasps make two changes to the team that thumped Saracens on the final day of the regular season. Both of those come in the front row as Ashley Johnson and Phil Swainston start at hooker and tighthead respectively.
Tommy Taylor, Marty Moore and James Gaskell are all named on the bench are returning to full fitness, but Kernan Myall misses out with a knee injury.
Leicester skipper Tom Youngs will make his 100th Tigers start while Telusa Veainu starts at full-back after recovering from injury, but they are without injured trio JP Pietersen, Maxime Mermoz and Tom Brady.
Mike Fitzgerald replaces Mike Williams at blindside flanker while Ed Slater is named among the replacements.
Wasps: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Willie le Roux, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Joe Simpson; 1 Matt Mullan, 2 Ashley Johnson, 3 Phil Swainston, 4 Joe Launchbury (c), 5 Matt Symons, 6 James Haskell, 7 Thomas Young, 8 Nathan Hughes.
Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Marty Moore, 19 James Gaskell, 20 Guy Thompson, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Alapati Leiua, 23 Josh Bassett.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Mathew Tait, 12 Owen Williams, 11 Peter Betham, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Ben Youngs; 1 Ellis Genge, 2 Tom Youngs (c), 3 Dan Cole, 4 Dom Barrow, 5 Graham Kitchener, 6 Mike Fitzgerald, 7 Brendon O'Connor, 8 Luke Hamilton.
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Greg Bateman, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Ed Slater, 20 Mike Williams, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Jack Roberts, 23 Matt Smith.