Venue: Adams Park
Referee: Martin Fox
Where do you begin? Decimated by major injuries to 16 members of their squad this season, with Joe Worsley, Dan Ward-Smith and Steve Thompson retired and Tom Rees, Riki Flutey, Chris Bell, nd Chris Mayor gone for the season, not forgetting that Tom Varndell and Christian Wade are yet to return, it’s enough to make you despair. That’s before seeing that their lineout operator who sits top of the stats for lineouts won, Marco Wentzel, is gone for the season. Last week’s defeat against Sale Sharks was their ninth consecutive defeat in the Aviva Premiership. They cannot afford to reach double figures.
A season of transition for London Irish and it’s beginning to show. After sitting pretty in third spot in the league around Christmas and winning away in Paris, it’s all begun to unravel, dropping out of the Heineken Cup and down to eighth in the Aviva Premiership. Jonathan Joseph spoke this week of Irish players not working to the team’s system for the full match and it letting them down. A combination of inaccuracy, lack of composure and poor execution has seen them throw away chances to win games. They have the talent, their last two performances against Harlequins and Northampton have been spirited, but ended in defeat. With one win in their last six, if Irish genuinely want to make the playoffs they have to win on Saturday.
What to Expect:
With Wentzel gone and their scrum as creaky as ever, Irish will look to punish Wasps at the set-piece. The lack of a genuine openside for the Exiles with Jamie Gibson injured though hands the advantage to Jonathan Poff. Irish’s backs proved last week that if you give them a sniff they have the power and pace to turn you over, but Wasps with Waldouck and Daly in the centre have some great talent capable of cruising past the first man. Hard to pick a winner.
All Eyes On: Tom Prydie & Max Lahiff
With Wade and Varndell out injured for over 12 weeks each, Wasps have turned to the loan market and brought Wales’ youngest ever international into the fold. Desperate for game time, Tom Prydie’s move to London is a work in progress for the winger, who would love to grab a first try in this must win game. As for Irish, with Alex Corbisiero away on England duty fellow academy product Max Lahiff has been starting for the Exiles. Hard to miss with his haircut, the prop gets the yardage up around the paddock whilst holding his own in the scrum.
Head to Head: Elliot Daly v Jonathan Joseph
Two bright young English talents in both 13 shirts on Saturday. International recognition may be a bit far off for Daly but Joseph is on the edge of breaking through. His movement and first step are excellent, enough to leave defenders in his wake, with raw pace that can’t be coached. Daly is no slouch either, also possessing a monster boot that has seen him land strikes from well over half way.
Desperation often produces miracles, but no one needs them more than Wasps. Every point will count on Saturday but in the end Irish might have too much juice to lose again. Irish by 8.
by Ben Coles