Wasps must battle on without James Haskell


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The Independent Online

Wasps must again make do without their in-form captain and flanker James Haskell for Sunday’s European Champions Cup encounter with Harlequins at Adams Park. Prop Matt Mullan will lead the team in his absence.

The 29-year-old England international missed Wasps’ Champions Cup opener against Leinster in Dublin last weekend, two days after displaying flu-like symptoms, and has still not recovered full fitness.

However, the Coventry-bound club received a timely boost during the week when their highly-rated England lock Joe Launchbury committed his future to Wasps. Launchbury ended weeks of speculation by signing a contract extension, rejecting an approach from Aviva Premiership title-challengers Saracens in the process.

It was a significant coup by Wasps, who have kept their prized asset just two-and-a-half weeks after announcing their £23 million relocation to the Ricoh Arena.

“I feel like I have unfinished business at this club and truly believe that over the coming years we can improve beyond recognition,” Launchbury, 23, said.

“I understand that being an English player made me quite attractive to some teams, but I’ve always felt at home here. The calibre of the clubs in the Premiership is awesome and I have respect for all of them, but for me and for my family we felt this was the best for us.”

After the defeat at Leinster, Sam Jones replaces Guy Thompson at open-side flanker for Wasps, while Harlequins make just one change from the team that saw off Castres, bringing in Kyle Sinckler for Will Collier at tight-head prop.

Meanwhile, scrum-half Will Cliff will replace Chris Cusiter to make his first start of the season when Sale travel to Clermont Auvergne today. Clermont, who are at full strength, include Wales centre Jonathan Davies and the former Bath full-back Nick Abendanon.