Leicester Tigers v London Wasps, Aviva Premiership, February 19
Tigers look to heap woe on Wasps
February 18, 2011
Leicester's Thomas Waldrom breaches the Wasps defensive line during their clash at Adams Park back in September © Getty Images
Aviva Premiership leaders Leicester Tigers welcome London Wasps to Welford Road on Saturday and the hosts will be relishing the opportunity to pile pain onto their fierce rivals.
Wasps are riding a run of four defeats - two in the league and two in the Anglo-Welsh Cup - and since their narrow loss to Gloucester last time out they have parted company with director of rugby Tony Hanks.
Head coach Shaun Edwards has taken charge of the side for their latest meeting with the Tigers who have recorded seven straight Premiership victories on their way to cementing their place at the top of the table. Back-to-back defeats in the Anglo-Welsh Cup earlier this month have done little to halt their momentum and the absence of their international stars did not prevent them from beating a determined Leeds outfit last weekend.
Wasps conjured a great escape against Leicester earlier in the season and will require another stunning effort if they are to hand the Tigers their first home defeat in this season's campaign. The chance to bloody the noses of their high-flying rivals is sure to inspire a significant improvement from Wasps but will it be enough?
Leicester - Player to Watch: England flanker Croft is named among the replacements on his return from injury - can he force his way back into the England reckoning?
Leicester - Team News: The Tigers welcome back internationals Martin Castrogiovanni and Tom Croft. Castrogiovanni takes the tight-head berth and is joined in the front row by Boris Stankovich in the only changes to the line-up which started last Sunday's victory at Leeds.
Wasps - Player to Watch: Flanker Joe Launchbury recently starred for England U20s and has been tipped for a bright future.
Wasps - Team News: Mark Van Gisbergen and Nic Berry return in the back line and Tom Lindsay, Marty Veale and Joe Launchbury all start in the pack. Richard Birkett is named as captain. Van Gisbergen returns to fullback, with Ben Jacobs fitting in on the wing in the absence of Tom Varndell and Nic Berry comes into the team at scrum-half. Tom Lindsay starts at hooker pushing Joe Ward to the bench, while James Cannon makes way for Marty Veale in the second row. Joe Worsley starts at No.8 and Launchbury gets the nod at blindside.
Key Battle: A fascinating midfield battle awaits with Leicester's in-form duo of Manu Tuilagi and Anthony Allen lining up against Wasps' Dominic Waldouck and Riki Flutey. Expect some fireworks.
Trivia: Leicester and Wasps have won eight out of the 10 Premiership Finals staged since 2001 - both sides having won the Twickenham showpiece on four occasions.
Stats: Tigers No.8 Thomas Waldrom has racked up 708m with the ball during this season's Premiership - second only to London Irish's Delon Armitage with 738m.
"We've had some cracking games against Wasps in recent years and it should be a good contest." - Tigers boss Richard Cockerill expects an entertaining clash
"With eight more Premiership games to go, our aim as a minimum is to secure our place in next year's Heineken Cup and continue to fight for a place in the play-offs. This club has a proud history of success, and our ambition is as strong as ever." - Wasps chief executive Chris Thomas offers assurances to fans following the departure of Tony Hanks
Fantasy: Rising star Manu Tuilagi underlined his value to the Tigers with a try against Leeds and could well dominate the headlines again this weekend. Is he in your ESPNscrum's Fantasy Rugby Game team line-up?
Prediction: The Tigers will be sensing blood and having built up an impressive head of steam will prove too strong for their old foes.
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