Dai Young: "This block of four games will pretty much determine where we're going to sit in the league"
With four crucial consecutive weeks of Aviva Premiership action almost upon us, for Wasps the battle to claim a play-off position for a third consecutive year is very much to the fore.
Six wins in seven league starts since late October provided the springboard which has taken Dai Young’s team to third in the table with nine rounds remaining.
And according to Wasps’ rugby director, the next block of fixtures – at Harlequins and Gloucester plus home games against champions Exeter and London Irish – will now go a long way towards defining his club’s season.
“We have a block of four games now which will pretty much determine where we're going to sit in the league,” Young said.
“If we can get the results we want, we should be sitting comfortably in the top four after which we can push for the top two in the last three or four games.
“But if we don't get these results right, we're probably going to be fighting to get into that top four, so it's massive set of games for us.”
As has been well documented, the black-and-golds have suffered badly with injuries during two separate spells this season. However, according to Young the situation is now much more positive.
“It was great to see Tommy Taylor and Josh Bassett back against Leicester,” he said.
“It's hard not to miss a character who trains as hard as Tommy does and also puts everything into the game.
“His set-piece is up there with the best of them. His game involvement is huge as well - he is always a near-top performer in tackle count and carries.
“Josh has had an outstanding season and has also worked really hard to get back and it was great to see him out there as well.
“Jimmy Gopperth and Gaby Lovobalavu are both back in training, and we’re waiting to see if they suffer any reaction from their first couple of sessions.
“Matt Mullan is going through the same process as Jimmy and did some non-contact stuff with the team last week. Today's the first day he’s properly trained so he's another one that should soon be available for selection providing there’s no reaction.
“Nathan Hughes is away with England, but hasn’t really trained with us yet. They’ll make a call on him, then if he's not retained by them and is able to come through two training sessions here, he'll be available for us. We'll wait and see on that.
“Alex Rieder and Elliot Daly are also closing in on fitness, but in fairness both are at least another week or two away.”
Young said the European Cup defeat at Harlequins is still fresh in the memory for everyone at Wasps, and that will motivate his players against a home side that also welcomes a few familiar faces back from the treatment room.
“We totally dominated the game for 55 minutes, then let it slip,” he said, “so we know we have to play for the full 80 minutes against them.
“The result also knocked us out of Europe, and you would like to think the boys will carry that hurt with them this week.
“We can't hide away from the fact that in the last 20 minutes, they seemed to have more fire in their belly than we did. You have to be honest enough to say that.
“We thought the game was won by the look of it, but they picked the game up by the scruff of the neck and found a way to win. We have to make sure we don't allow that to happen again at the weekend.
“Like us, Quins have a number of players back – Luke Wallace and James Horwill played last week, as did Joe Marchant in the centre - so they'll be stronger than when we played them last.
“But if we can play to the best of our ability, we're more than capable of going anywhere and winning."
Tickets for the Aviva Premiership visit of champions Exeter Chiefs on February 18 and London Irish on March 4 are available at www.wasps.co.uk/tickets on 02476 786411 or in person from the Ricoh Arena ticket office.