This Sunday, Wasps face Stade Francais in the first game of the two-legged qualification for next season’s European Rugby Champions Cup. With a host of international stars in Stade Francais’ ranks, including the likes of Sergio Parisse, Digby Ioane, Morne Steyn, Julien Dupuy and Jule Plisson, the French side will prove tough opponents for Dai Young’s men, standing in the way of them and qualification for Europe’s top table.
Ahead of the first game this weekend, Dai Young made no bones about the magnitude of the two fixtures.
“The next fortnight is incredibly important for both Clubs, who will be equally as determined to finish on a high, with a place at Europe’s top table for next season on offer.”
Wasps go into the two-legged qualification decider on the back of a disappointing result against Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens. Young makes it clear that cannot be brushed under the carpet but everyone must focus on the next two games.
“Speaking on behalf of everyone in the Rugby Department, last weekend’s performance was unacceptable. We were all incredibly disappointed, especially with the way we lacked fight when we went behind. That performance certainly won’t be brushed under the carpet, but the detailed post mortem must wait until after these two games."
“I think people will understand, we’re not in a position where we can dwell on it too long. These two play-off games are huge for the Club, the players and our supporters. No matter who was playing last week, we are all in this together. We win together, we lose together. There has been a lot of hurt around the camp, so it may be the ideal time to go into this game. We’ve all looked at where we need to improve and I’ve been very pleased with the response players have shown in training. The intensity has been good and now we need to translate that onto the pitch on Sunday."
“Our focus is on producing two decent performances against Stade Français Paris, and hopefully two wins, to get us into the top European competition next season. We only had 23 players fit to train before Northampton, but we hope to have the majority of players who had knocks, back this weekend, which was always the intention."
“Stade Français are a quality side. They are big and powerful right across the board, full of international stars and world renowned names. We’ve planned for every eventuality, but whatever team they put out, it will be quality from 1- 23.
“We will give Stade Français the respect they deserve and try to work our way through their strengths and weaknesses, but as normal, it will be up to us to impose our own game and play the game we want to play with ball in hand. We need to get our set piece right and obviously our defence has to step up. It’s been a strong part of our game all season, so I don’t expect it to be any different in these two games. We just need to make sure the bite and attitude is spot on."
“Defence normally gives an indication of the mindset of a team and that mindset wasn’t right the last couple of games given the way we leaked tries. Certainly, up until those two games, our defence and attitude had been excellent, so we need to recapture that hunger and desire, and produce the work rate and attitude in defence to give ourselves a good chance. I’m sure we will do that on Sunday."
“Last weekend showed there are areas we would need to bolster if we were to reach Europe’s top tier, in order to meet the significant challenge all squads face in the competition. That process is already underway as we have strengthened the squad through a number of high quality, international signings for next season. We will continue to strengthen our squad the following season so we are in an even better position to compete with the big boys in Europe."
“We would be absolutely thrilled if we were to reach the European Rugby Champions Cup - it’s where the supporters, players and the Club want to be. It would be a year ahead of where we were expecting to be in the building process, but we are so close now and we will give everything in our power to get there. We all want to grab this opportunity with both hands.”
Tickets for the first leg of the European Rugby Champions Cup play-off are on sale from the Wasps Ticket Office. Secure your place now by visiting wasps.co.uk/tickets