Game of the Week - Wasps v London Irish
March 6, 2009
Tom Rees returns to the Wasps lineup against London Irish © Getty Images
Wasps host London Irish at Adam Park on Sunday, with both sides looking to bounce back after disappointing losses last weekend.
The home side will be spurred on by the news that 13 members of their squad have signed new deals, including Danny Cipriani and Tom Rees, but will be hurting after Willie Walker's drop-goal for Worcester put a severe dent in their playoff ambitions.
With Toby Flood currently nursing an injury Cipriani will have his eye on the England fly-half jersey, and a good performance at Adams Park could swing the vote in his favour after last weekend's turgid effort in Ireland. Cipriani partners Mark Robinson at halfback, while there is another notable return in the form of Rees, the openside starting his first game since sustaining moderate tear to his ACL against Harlequins in January.
To accommodate Rees Serge Betsen moves to the blindside flank, with John Hart at No.8. Wasps have experience throughout the backline with John Lewsey at No.12 and Tom Voyce and Mark Van Gisbergen in the back-three.
For the Exiles, consistency is key. Head coach Toby Booth has elected to select the same side that lost narrowly to Leicester at the Madejski Stadium last weekend, meaning that England duo Paul Hodgson and Shane Geraghty get another chance to press their claims from halfback. Seilala Mapusua starts at inside centre alongside Elvis Seveali'i with Tom Homer continuing at fullback in the absence of the injured Peter Hewat. James Hudson and Gary Johnson start in the second-row, with Nick Kennedy away with England and Bob Casey out with a bicep injury.
"We face another tough test of our ambition to finish in the top four on Sunday afternoon," said Booth. "As always at this point of the season Wasps are starting to play good rugby, especially at home. We will have to compete in every aspect of the game if we are to get a result."
Wasps: Mark Van Gisbergen; Lachlan Mitchell, Dominic Waldouck, Josh Lewsey, Tom Voyce, Danny Cipriani, Mark Robinson, Tim Payne, Rob Webber, Pat Barnard, Simon Shaw, George Skivington, Serge Betsen (capt), Tom Rees, John Hart
Replacments: Joe Ward, Michael Holford, Richard Birkett, Dan Leo, Eoin Reddan, Dave Walder, Rob Hoadley
London Irish: Tom Homer, Topsy Ojo, Elvis Seveali'i, Seilala Mapusua, Adam Thompstone, Shane Geraghty, Paul Hodgson, Clarke Dermody, James Buckland, Tonga Lea'aetoa, James Hudson, Gary Johnson, Richard Thorpe, Steffon Armitage, Chris Hala'Ufia
Replacements: Alex Cornbisiero, Danie Coetzee, Jonathon Fisher, Declan Danaher, Sailosi Tagicakibau, Peter Richards, Mike Catt