Punishing schedule ahead for Leicester

Leicester 15 Wasps 12
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The Independent Online
Winter's grip is only now being felt by Leicester as they approach a severely congested run-in to their season. Two rearranged matches against Sale and Gloucester have had to be squeezed into an already overcrowded month for the Tigers. It will be no surprise, and no one would blame them, were Leicester to freeze in one or other of their big matches.

Their cause has not been helped by the money-spinning Sanyo Cup game against a Rest of the World XV at Twickenham on 21 April. They need to keep pressure on the leaders, Bath, by winning every league game, then there is the Pilkington Cup final at the beginning of May.

Rory Underwood predicts that next season when top clubs will have European competitions as well they will have to adopt a proper squad rotation system. And after Wasps had managed to rattle the Tigers cage in a rugged, but absorbing confrontation at Welford Road, Leicester's acting captain said: "We will have to put that system into practice over the next month. Some of the guys will be able to play all of the games in a row, but not everyone will."

Underwood is one of those. But he will not be taking a rest when Leicester entertain Sale on 17 April. Instead he will be turning out for the RAF against the Navy at Twickenham, where this Wednesday he faces the Army. On paper his schedule is more punishing than any of his Tigers team-mates, but it is likely that the 32-year-old will opt out of at least one league match, although he insists that he will play in the Sanyo Cup.

Wasps have things slightly easier as they chase a place in Europe, their three-match run-in contains two fixtures against bottom- of-the-table West Hartlepool, who have not won, or drawn, in the league this season.

On the form they showed against Leicester they should be good for six vital points. Their captain, the hugely talented Lawrence Dallaglio, was pleased with his side's performance. "In certain areas of the game I think we outplayed them. It was nice to stop them scoring a try," he said. Dallaglio himself had a hand in one massive moment, Underwood was inches from the line when the leading Wasp flew at the England wing and knocked him back with a shuddering tackle, one of many such hits he made in the game.

Tigers were no doubt relieved to learn that Dean Richards, their captain, who has been sidelined with a knee injury expects to be back in action at Bristol next week, if they are to emerge with something from this season then they will need him and the rest of their talented squad to cope with this late blizzard of fixtures.

Leicester: Penalties Liley 4; Drop Goal Malone. Wasps: Penalties Gregory 2; Drop Goals Gregory 2.

Leicester: J Liley; S Hackney, J Overend, R Robinson, R Underwood (capt); N Malone (J Hamilton, 39), A Kardooni; G Rowntree, R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Johnson, M Poole, J Wells, N Back, W Johnson.

Wasps: J Ufton; L Scrase, N Greenstock, A James, S Roiser; G Gregory, A Gomarsall; D Molloy, K Dunn, I Dunston, M Greenwood, R Kinsey, M White, L Dallaglio (capt), P Scrivener.

Referee: B Campsall (Halifax).

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