Sunday’s Aviva Premiership clash at The Ricoh is the first for Leicester post the Richard Cockerill era and Aaron Mauger’s first game as Interim Director of Rugby in complete control of the Tigers. They come up against the league leaders and I have no doubt that Wasps will provide Mauger with the toughest of starts to his ‘audition’ to become the No.1 on a permanent basis.
The new ‘Midlands Derby’ fixture has already thrown up a thriller earlier in the season at Welford Road and with the Christmas and New Year period providing contrasting fortunes for both these teams, the real business of the second half of the season begins in earnest this weekend.
Sloppy at the Outset
Wasps will be looking to improve their opening 20 mins this week after Dai Young conceded that despite a full house five point haul over Newcastle Falcons on New Year’s Eve, the leaders were sloppy at the outset of that game.
He told the club’s website: “It was a far from ideal start for us and you have to give Newcastle some credit. We had a couple of line-breaks early on too, and didn’t score, but they were really clinical in the early stages. “But sometimes it’s better that something like that happens in the first couple of minutes rather than 20 minutes into the game, and I was pleased that the boys didn’t panic and they got us back into the game”.
Character and Commitment in Abundance
“I thought we showed character and commitment in abundance, but sometimes we lacked a bit of brain power. When we went six points up we were trying to offload, and gave away silly penalties when there was no need to. “We’ve got to look at that, because I was really pleased how we got ourselves back in the game and got our noses in front, but then we tried to commit suicide, and gave Newcastle the momentum to come back at us.”
Even though they went behind by 12 points in the first twenty minutes, they recovered by half-time and another strong showing by flanker Thomas Young now has him being talked up for Welsh selection ahead of the Six Nations in February.
Indeed, Young Snr will face a difficult decision in terms of selection when James Haskell returns imminently although rumour has it that in those close calls, unless the boss’ boy is far and away the form player, the DoR tends to lean in favour of the other guy. This is just one of the downsides of being the main man’s son.
Leicester’s players have handled the news about Cockerill’s departure this week with great professionalism as well as sadness. Captain Tom Youngs – who was one of those who developed through Leicester’s academy under Cockerill’s tenure at the club – denied any rumour of a player coup.
He told the BBC: “There’s not been a revolt or anything like that, it’s just speculation.”
“The board are in contact with us senior boys, and they ask you all sorts of different questions.
“You ask them what are we looking to do, who are we looking to sign, where is the club going, and you have those conversations.”
Consistency and Confidence
36 year-old New Zealander Mauger has told the Tigers website that he is looking for “consistency and confidence” in the performances of his team and that challenge begins this week against the attacking prowess of Wasps.
Reflecting on last week’s narrow defeat at the hands of the champions Saracens, Mauger said: “We need to be better. We did a lot of good things last weekend, we created more opportunities than Saracens, we matched them and were more physical than them at times, but you switch off for 15 seconds and they score. We are competitive, we’re not far off, it is about keeping belief there, believing we can go out and beat anybody and about getting a bit of confidence.”
If the West v East game that these two produced earlier in the season is anything to go by, Sunday could provide some fireworks.
Wasps v Saracens – The Ricoh Arena, Coventry Kick-off 15.00 BT Sport1HD
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