Wasps welcome Chiefs to Adams Park
December 3, 2010
Tom Varndell has been in fine try-scoring form for London Wasps this season © Getty Images
Two of the Aviva Premiership's most in-form sides meet at Adams Park on Sunday, with London Wasps colliding with this season's surprise package, Exeter Chiefs.
After a frustratingly inconsistent start to the new campaign, Wasps have climbed from ninth to sixth on the back of a run of three straight victories, the most recent of which was a well-earned 11-6 victory over Bath at the Recreation Ground last weekend.
With home advantage, Wasps will be confident of stretching that winning streak to four but in Exeter they are facing a side that is now unbeaten in five games in all competitions. The visitors will also take great belief out of the fact that they have already beaten Wasps this season, in the Anglo-Welsh Cup.
London Wasps - Player to Watch: Tom Varndell's crucial try in last weekend's win over Bath saw him move one clear at the top of the try-scoring charts. Expect Wasps to look to get the ball into the hands of their prolific winger as often as possible.
London Wasps - Team News: Wasps are bolstered by the return of lock Simon Shaw, No.8 Andy Powell and winger David Lemi from international duty. Elsewhere, prop Shaun Ruwers will make his first start for the club as Tim Payne has been ruled out with a knee injury. Ruwers will be joined in the front row by Tom Lindsay, who takes over from Joe Ward at hooker.
Exeter Chiefs - Player to Watch: Jason Shoemark has held on to the No.12 jersey after impressing on his first start for the club last weekend, against Sale - can the Kiwi turn in another impressive display against Wasps?
Exeter Chiefs - Team News: The Exiles have stuck with the same side which saw off Sale Sharks last weekend, meaning Frenchman Nic Sestaret will again start on the left wing ahead of leading try-scorer Mark Foster.
Key Battle: Dave Walder will make his 150th Premiership appearance this weekend and the Wasps fly-half will want to get one other on Ryan Davis, who has shown major signs of improvement in recent weeks.
Trivia: The two sides had only met once before this season's Anglo-Welsh Cup, with Wasps prevailing 31-0 in a Pilkington Cup quarter-final clash at the old County Ground all the way back in February 1995.
Stats: Wasps have only lost one home game this season in all competitions: a 37-10 defeat by Northampton in the Premiership on October 24.
"They have shown they are a team full of ambition and their performances have backed that up with strong wins both home and away. We have already been on the receiving end of a good Exeter performance in the Anglo-Welsh Cup but the team has responded really well since that defeat with three good wins." - London Wasps director of rugby Tony Hanks on newly-promoted Exeter
"It's a different challenge and a different environment for us to play in. It is, however, another opportunity to really attack a game and hit them with everything we've got. That is what we have been very good at this season and it's what we will do again." - Exeter Chiefs boss Rob Baxter outlines his side's attacking intentions
Fantasy: Sale's goal-kicking fullback Nick Macleod is the only outside back to have scored more points in this season's ESPNscrum Fantasy Game than London Wasps winger Tom Varndell, with just four points separating the pair (59-55).
Prediction: Exeter's lofty position in the table owes much to their fine home form but they have proven themselves more than competitive on the road, as Saracens know to their cost. However, Wasps have built up some real momentum of late and home advantage should swing what should be an exciting game in their favour.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton
Cards, kicks, slips and scores: It's The Week in Pictures, the finest snaps from the last seven days of rugby
Huw Richards Rewinds to 1975 when three Welsh legends were handed their debuts and assesses their legacy
Seven places in the Champions Cup quarter-finals are up for grabs; we break down the permutations for each group in the final round of matches