Launchbury: Connacht is a massive challenge
As Wasps prepare to face reigning Pro12 Champions Connacht on Sunday at the Ricoh Arena, Joe Launchbury says is will be a massive challenge for his side.
Wasps return to European Champions Cup action this weekend as they prepare for back-to-back games with Connacht, who currently top Pool 2 of the competition.
Ahead of the first of the two games, captain Joe Launchbury, who’s set to return to the side this weekend, says the game will be a huge test.
“Connacht is obviously a massive challenge for us. We're going into the match off the back of a really good team win for us against Worcester. It took a lot of guts and determination to win last Sunday, so hopefully we can take that into this weekend’s game, into what is a huge European clash.
“To get out of your group in Europe, you really have to win your home games so we understand how important this game is. At the same time, we’re very focused on the challenge Connacht are going to bring. They play a great brand of rugby and are quite similar to us in terms of their attacking play, where they try to score a lot of tries.
“To the neutral it’s hopefully going to be a very good game, but hopefully not too good a game! We’re looking at them and are aware of their threats, but we're focusing on ourselves as well.”
This Sunday is the first in back-to-back fixtures against the reigning Pro12 champions and Launchbury says that provides a unique dynamic.
“I always really enjoy the double header in December. It’s a great challenge on lots of fronts, obviously to play home and away on two consecutive weeks is a challenge for the squad and a challenge for the off-field department in terms of looking at ways to break people down week-on-week. So it’s a really big challenge for us and also two weeks that are pretty much make or break in Europe.
“This is what European rugby is about. We've played our first two games and have had quite a long break before going back into the competition. You’ve got to be bang-up for every game and you’ve got to really perform, so we’re going to be very focused in training this week and have a really good week of prep to try to make sure we put in a performance this weekend.”
Wasps kick off the back-to-back fixtures at home and Launchbury says that starting at the Ricoh Arena is a blessing.
“We always love playing at home and if we could have all of our games at the Ricoh, we would! It’s a good place to play and the squad really enjoy running out here. We know we need to perform and make the most of home advantage.”
Wasps have suffered with a lengthy injury list in recent weeks, but Launchbury was quick to dismiss that would be used as any excuse if the performance wasn't up to scratch.
“At this time of year there always seem to be a few injured bodies taking knocks and we’re no different to other clubs, so we’re certainly not using injury as an excuse for anything we do. We’ve got enough quality out on the training pitch to put in a good week’s prep for the weekend.”
Finally, Launchbury also had a mention for his former second row partner James Cannon, who made the switch to Connacht last month and who the squad will look forward to catching up with over the next couple of weeks.
“It will be great to see JC (Cannon) again. It looks like the move has gone really well for him so I'm really pleased for him. He was fantastic here at Wasps and a great servant to the club who’s sorely missed both on and off the pitch, but it’s fantastic to see him doing so well over there.” Tickets for this Sunday’s clash with Connacht Rugby are still available to purchase online here.
Don't forget there will be a bumper Wasps Nest Fan Village in the Ericsson Exhibition Hall on Sunday, opening at 10.30am.
Fairground rides including dodgems will be available for rugby supporters to hop aboard free of charge, alongside a host of other activities that the whole family to enjoy.