First off, I say how unbelievable it is that Leicester have reached their record-breaking 13th consecutive playoff in the same season where 3 coaches have been dismissed and a thrashing out of Europe at the group stage. Instead of breaking apart, the Tigers player have bonded closer together and praise must go to Tigers captain Tom Youngs who despite everything being thrown at him has pulled his group together. Also my sincere condolences to the Youngs family following their tragic news.
At the moment, the scrum under new scrum coach and old player Boris Stankovich has been so close to perfect. Since around March, Tigers have dominated their own scrum and often forced the opposition to turn over or concede a penalty. To defeat Wasps they need to force Wasps to concede at the scrum to get points on the board and gain an early foothold.
Also the defence went from at the beginning of season being very mediocre at best to, in my opinion, the second-best defence now in Premiership behind Saracens. Defence Coach Brett Deacon will be knocking on the door for international honours as a coach and will certainly be giving Paul Gustard a run for his money. To defeat Wasps they need to shut down Danny Cipriani but also have to shut down the second receiver as well to prevent Wasps’ backline from getting good ball to attack with.
I feel that Tigers’ attacking flair is beginning to mould under O’Connor’s style. Telusa Veainu’s try against Newcastle was a very nice move to prevent the drifting of defence and reality could have worked against any team. Some more quick ball and switch plays could see some good tries against a Wasps team with a mediocre defence. Also keep the ball for continuous phases and put Wasps under sustained pressure.
The lineout has been an issue in recent weeks. It was a crisis against Sale, but it improved against Worcester, and it needs to be close to 100% against Wasps to gain foothold and advantage in a game. If the scrum will be getting penalties from the opposition, that will be a good opportunity to kick to the corner and get some tries if the lineout is functioning.
Also the territory kicking needs to be almost excellent to win the game, Leicester can’t afford to kick long and give that threatening back 3 some space to attack, the kicks needs to be high and short so that runners can compete and make the likes of Beale, Wade and Le Roux stay put. Plus, Leicester needs to kick into space and out into Wasps’ 22 and put pressure on the exit. Do this and again Wasps don’t have a platform to attack from and score tries.
On that front as well, Tigers need to be mauling well. I’d say Wasps would have a slightly better pack on paper but we certainly have a better front row (I don’t know why Eddie Jones ever bothered with Tommy Taylor when Tom Youngs is a far better hooker). If we maul really well it will put Wasps under a lot of pressure and encourage the defence to get tighter or join the maul and that creates space out wide for our own backs to exploit if we don’t score from the maul.
So that is what I think Tigers should do to beat Wasps on Saturday and I hope they do and I for one will be at the Ricoh cheering them on!
By Jacob Bassford