Fixture: London Irish v Wasps
Competition: Gallagher Premiership, Round 24
Date: Sunday 1st May 2022
Stadium: Brentford Community Stadium
London Irish’s final home Gallagher Premiership game of the 2021/22 season sees them welcome Lee Blackett’s Wasps to the Brentford Community Stadium in a finely poised match-up for Heineken Champions Cup qualification.
A place, a point and a game in hand separate the two teams with Irish benefitting from the former two, having reversed their form of late with three consecutive wins in the EPCR Challenge Cup, Premiership and Premiership Rugby Cup.
Having lost their previous three beforehand, Wasps themselves are on a three-game winning streak in the Premiership and six-game winning run in all competitions after their 41-12 win against Midlands rivals Worcester Warriors.
The Black and Golds ended a two-month winless run against London Irish in their final match of 2022 with a 38-30 win at the Coventry Building Society Arena.
Irish’s last home victory against their former London rivals in the Premiership came back in February 2013 when 20 points from Tom Homer saw the Exiles to a 30-19 victory.
Wasps have made their lineout a pillar of their game this season; boasting the highest lineout success rate in this season’s Premiership (93%) and have also stolen more opposition lineouts (49).
The boss- Lee Blackett:
Blackett took over from Dai Young, three-time Premiership play-off qualifier with Wasps, after the Welshman’s departure and latter appointment with Cardiff Rugby.
The former Rotherham Titans Coach guided Wasps to their second Premiership final in 12 years when he was appointed Interim Head Coach for the remainder of the 2019/20 season, losing out to Exeter Chiefs.
He was the youngest Head Coach in the Premiership and Championship in his two seasons leading Titans, taking them to consecutive play-off berths, before leaving to become Backs Coach at Wasps.
The 39-year-old spent his playing days with Fylde, Titans and also Leeds Carnegie.
One to Watch- Gabriel Oghre:
A former Bath Academy product, Gabriel Oghre did not make an appearance for the Rec side before signing for Wasps in 2017 and has since made appearances for England’s under-19 and under-20s sides.
The young forward has scored four tries in his last six appearances in Black and Gold, having previously touched down in Rounds 7, 8 and 9 earlier on in the campaign.
Positional flexibility is seemingly a valued asset at the Coventry Building Society Arena, with former hooker Alfie Barbeary a converted back-rower and Oghre, a 2 by nature, previously filling in at openside flanker as recent as this season.
Oghre forms a foundation for Wasps’ aforementioned solid set-piece, retaining the highest lineout throwing success rate in the Premiership after finding a teammate with 105 of his 111 attempted throws (95%).
Classic Encounter: London Irish 28-16 Wasps - 27th September 2017 - Guinness Premiership
London Irish ended Wasps’ 100% start to the season and moved into the top two of the Premiership with a tough 28-16 win over Tony Hanks’ side at the Madejski Stadium.
The Exiles wasted no time in setting the tone with Sailosi Tagicakibau’s opener after good ground made by Seilala Mapasua and Peter Hewat, but Danny Cipriani took the visitors into the lead with two penalties.
Ryan Lamb’s own two placed kicks and a drop goal saw Irish go in eight points to the good at the break, but Wasps were awarded a penalty try early on to bring them back into the game.
Lamb and Hewat kept Irish ticking over with a penalty and drop goal respectively before Tagicakibau intercepted Ben Jacobs’ pass to race away and certify the win for Irish.
Tries: Sailosi Tagicakibau (2)
Penalties: Ryan Lamb (4)
Drop-goals: Ryan Lamb, Peter Hewat
Conversion: Danny Cipriani
Penalties: Danny Cipriani (3)
Wasps Head Coach Lee Blackett has revealed a change in training habits has abetted in a cut in a number of injuries suffered in his squad, with the Coventry side having had up to 20 players unavailable in portions of this season.
“About eight weeks ago, we changed the way we work our weeks,” Blackett stated.
“So where we used to be three days on the bounce, we now go two days on the bounce, day off, training day, day off, play- we’ve freshened things up in terms of that, and have mixed competitions as well.
“With new faces coming back, there doesn’t seem to be an end-of-season feel to us at all.
Blackett also spoke on how more available players has created a pleasant dilemma for himself and the coaching staff at Wasps.
"The back three is savage in terms of selection and who you leave out.
“This back three presents pretty hard selection decisions every single week, you have to be at your best, they all know that.”