Wasps primed for Bayonne showdown
December 15, 2009
Veteran lock Simon Shaw will be back in action for Wasps against Bayonne this weekend © Getty Images
The latest round of this season's European Challenge Cup kicks off on Thursday night with London Wasps taking on Bayonne at Stade Jean Dauger in a clash that is set to go a long way to deciding the destiny of Pool 4.
Wasps currently head the pool thanks to victories over Racing Metro, Rugby Roma and a narrow 22-18 win against their Top 14 rivals at Adams Park last weekend and a repeat success will see them close in on a quarter-final berth. Only the pool winners will gain a last-eight place this season, with three remaining places being filled by Heineken Cup pool runners-up.
Wing Paul Sackey, centre Ben Jacobs, hooker Rob Webber and lock Simon Shaw all start, taking over as respective replacements for Steve Varndell, Steve Kefu, Joe Ward and Richard Birkett. Danny Cipriani, meanwhile, remains on the bench awaiting a first team return after suffering a fractured fibula earlier this season.
Ahead of his side's latest European encounter, Hanks said, "We were pleased with the result last weekend. But the competitive nature of the fixture was evident from the off, and with such a short turnaround and a run-out on Bayonne's own turf, we expect this game to be even more intense. Both sides have all to play for, and points at this stage are crucial to moving into the quarter-final window, so it is a game we are relishing.
"Our team changes reflect a block of three fixtures in an 11-day turnaround and give us the chance to fully rotate the squad. I think what this window of games has shown is that we really have strength in our squad, and are not reliant on a (particular) starting line-up. That shows the health at the club and is really positive for Wasps at this stage of the season."
Bayonne are currently languishing just one place off the bottom of France's top flight but their scalps at home this season include Stade Francais, Bourgoin and Montpellier. They are much-changed from the team that travelled to Adams Park, including six switches up front, where only lock Nicolas Laffite and skipper Remy Martin are retained.
London Wasps: Mark Van Gisbergen; Paul Sackey, Ben Jacobs, Dominic Waldouck, David Lemi; Dave Walder, Joe Simpson; Tim Payne, Rob Webber, Ben Broster, Simon Shaw, George Skivington, John Hart, Serge Betsen (c), Dan Ward-Smith
Replacements: Joe Ward, Gabriel Bocca, Martin Rice, Richard Birkett, Will Matthews, Mark Robinson, Danny Cipriani, Steve Kefu
Bayonne: Jean Baptiste Peyras; Pepito Elhorga, Thibault Lacroix, Sam Gerber, Benjamin Fall; Craig Gower; Cedric Garcia, Salvatore Perugini, David Roumieu, Rodney Blake, Robin Linde, Nicolas Laffite, Jean-Jo Marmouyet, Rémy Martin, Julien Puricelli
Replacements: Arnaud Heguy, Aretz Iguiniz, Ross Filipo, Jacques Deen, Mickael Lopez-Herrero, Manny Edmonds, Vincent Inigo, Denis Avril
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
"The thirst for knowledge has seen coaches break away from the confines of rugby and look to America." Tom Hamilton on the two-way learning process
On Saturday, New Zealand face the USA in a match that has been 40 years in the making. Tom Hamilton finds the atmosphere building in Chicago
Most modern rugby players will not know the name Ray Williams but they should be eternally grateful to him, writes John Taylor
With the All Blacks playing the USA Eagles this weekend, Craig Dowd says rugby is ready to make a professional breakthrough Stateside