Guinness Premiership - Game of the Week
Wasps and Irish set for mouth-watering clash
September 25, 2009
Will Wasps winger Tom Varndell add to his impressive try tally against London Irish this weekend? © Getty Images
London Irish welcome Premiership leaders London Wasps to the Madejski Stadium in the pick of the Round 4 action.
The Exiles have racked up successive bonus point victories against Gloucester and Leeds and are bidding to become the first team to tally three consecutive maximum point wins since Leicester did so over New Year 2008-09. But they face a Wasps side that currently sit top of the Premiership table having made a perfect played 3, won 3 start to the season.
Wasps have won their last six matches in the Premiership, and have been victorious in their last two away games at Bristol and at Bath. The Exiles have won just one of their last four meetings with their London rivals, whilst Wasps have an incredible record at Madejski Stadium which has seen them win on seven out of their last eight visits.
Wasps winger Tom Varndell is set to feature again having become just the 10th player to score 50 Premiership tries with his fifth try of the season against Worcester last time out. The England international achieved the feat in record time having reached the milestone after 5456 minutes of Premiership action - almost 500 minutes "faster" than the previous record holder - Steve Hanley.
The Exiles, who are third in the table going into their first home "London derby" of the season, make three changes to the starting line-up from the team that played in Leeds last Sunday. For the second week in succession the front row is rotated as three internationals - Clarke Dermody (New Zealand), David Paice (England) and Paulica Ion (Romania), take over the starting positions.
"Our players have been improving week by week and they showed a real mental toughness last weekend," said coach Toby Booth. "They know what they have to do on Sunday to get a result. We're quietly confident of a big performance in front of our home crowd.
"London Wasps are showing signs of returning to their former glory and must be delighted with the start they've made to the season. They have a fantastic defence and are already emerging as serious challengers for the Premiership play-offs," Booth added. "I'm sure the supporters of both clubs can look forward to an entertaining contest on Sunday."
Wasps' prop Phil Vickery makes his first competitive appearance since the British & Irish Lions' third Test victory over South Africa. Named in the starting XV, Vickery is one of two changes to the side that secured victory over Worcester at Adams Park last weekend, as John Hart takes the No.8 jersey in place of Dan Ward-Smith. Ward-Smith moves to the bench.
Looking ahead to the game, director of rugby Tony Hanks said, "We have been delighted with the progress the squad have made through the first three rounds of the Guinness Premiership. To see the new players settle and our experienced and young aspiring guys really take our game forward has been pleasing for all involved. Three wins out of out three is a fantastic start but we know the bar is raised again this week against a very sharp looking London Irish team.
"Vicks has worked hard this summer to get through an injury and a hard fought Lions Tour. He is fired up and ready to make a comeback in a game which I think will be our biggest test yet. There is a great feeling amongst this group and they are relishing the challenge of Sunday's game."
London Irish: Peter Hewat; Adam Thompstone; Elvis Seveali'i; Seilala Mapusua; Sailosi Tagicakibau; Ryan Lamb; Paul Hodgson; Clarke Dermody; David Paice; Paulica Ion; Nick Kennedy; Bob Casey (captain); Declan Danaher; Steffon Armitage; Chris Hala'Ufia.
Replacements: Dan Murphy; Danie Coetzee; Faan Rautenbach; Andy Perry; Richard Thorpe; Chris Malone; Peter Richards; Alfredo Lalanne.
London Wasps: Lachlan Mitchell, Paul Sackey, Ben Jacobs, Dominic Waldouck, Tom Varndell, Danny Cipriani, Joe Simpson, Tim Payne, Rob Webber, Phil Vickery, George Skivington, Richard Birkett, Joe Worsley, Serge Betsen (captain), John Hart
Replacements: Tom Lindsay, Charlie Beech, Bob Baker, Dan Leo, Dan Ward-Smith, Warren Fury, Dave Walder, Mark Odejobi