International stars return for Midlands derby

Tue, 28 Nov 2017 12:42

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Fans might still be recovering from some huge shocks in Round Nine of the Premiership, but before you know it Round 10 will be upon us and a tantalising midlands derby awaits.

Ever since Wasps changed their address to the Ricoh Arena, clashes against Leicester Tigers have taken on a whole new meaning - deciding who gets the bragging rights in the region.

The pair meet again in Coventry for this Saturday's late kick-off, and both sides will be bolstered by returning internationals.

Here we take a look at how both sides are shaping up ahead of the game.

Last weekend was a real coupon-buster in the Premiership with huge away wins for Gloucester at Newcastle Falcons and for Exeter Chiefs at Saracens.

But the most eye-catching result of all was Worcester Warriors' incredible 31-27 victory at Welford Road - the Warriors' second win in a row and their first ever at the home of the Leicester Tigers.

The match represented the oval-ball game at its best with huge amounts of drama, some scintillating rugby and a try-of-the-season contender.

Matt O'Connor's side have been on a terrific run of late, winning six the Premiership matches in a row before the defeat to Worcester, and they'll be pleased to welcome back England stars Ben Youngs, George Ford, Ellis Genge, Jonny May and Dan Cole on Saturday.

Ford has had an excellent season so far and continued that in England colours in November, starting all three matches at flyhalf for Eddie Jones and co-captaining the side in the 48-14 win over Samoa.

May has also enjoyed a superb start to the campaign and maintained his prolific try-scoring form with a classy finish against Australia a few weeks ago.

Youngs has been at his threatening best during the autumn internationals and the return of props Cole and Genge will be crucial against Wasps - with the pair operating as the cornerstone of Tigers' pack in 2017.

Wasps Director of Rugby Dai Young will no doubt be delighted to welcome back senior players Elliot Daly and Joe Launchbury in time for this weekend, with both players impressing on England duty over the autumn.

There is a concern over Launchbury's fitness, with Wasps' talismanic skipper leaving the field injured against Samoa having suffered a shoulder injury, not thought to be too serious at this stage.

The giant lock has had a fantastic November wearing the Red Rose, winning the man-of-the-match award against Australia and being noticeably missed in driving mauls on Saturday after leaving the field injured.

His teammate Daly is perhaps the England player who impressed most over the three matches, the outside back grabbing the crucial try against Australia and helping himself to two more against Samoa.

It looks unlikely that Nathan Hughes will regain fitness in time to take on the Tigers, but the black-and-golds are in terrific form, beating London Irish 17-13 over the weekend to back up wins over Newcastle and Northampton Saints.

Saturday's match is a difficult one to predict but Wasps could overtake Leicester if they can get the victory - but an intense game of rugby is guaranteed.

Source: @premrugby

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