Melville calls on Wasps to learn from mistakes
Friday 12 May 2000
Nigel Melville has named nine of last year's winning line-up for Saturday's' Tetley's Bitter Cup final against Northampton.
The Wasps coach was able to select from a full-strength squad but there were few surprises in a side which will be led by Lawrence Dallaglio. The Londoners have faced Northampton three times this season and won their last Premiership encounter, at Franklin's Gardens on Tuesday.
However, having lost their Heineken Cup quarter-final against the Saints to a controversial late penalty from Paul Grayson, Wasps go into the game with vengeance in mind. That Northampton defeat was one of a series of high-profile losses in big games this season, but Melville insists his team are strong enough to stand up to the pressure.
"We are not a brittle side but we have been our own worst enemies at times," he said. "Because we are a young side, sometimes we don't have the sense to shut games down when we are in a winning position. We just want to score more tries and be entertaining. It is a hard lesson but one we are learning."
A repeat of last season's 29-19 win over Newcastle will see Wasps qualify for the European Cup and take the pressure off their final two league games against London Irish and Harlequins. One of the keys to victory will be the form of the Samoan hooker Trevor Leota. The front row has been in superb form since Melville signed the England hooker Phil Greening, but Leota angered the Northampton crowd with a series of crunching tackles on Tuesday and was sent to the sin-bin for a body- check on Martin Scelzo. However, Melville insists the man dubbed by Northampton's captain, Pat Lam, as "the hardest tackler in the world" is a fair player.
"Sometimes he feels a bit hard done by," said the Wasps coach. "He is a very powerful guy but he is not very big - his opportunities to make high tackles are limited. People are shocked by how hard he can hit but if you look at the video, it is not dirty, it is perfectly fair. It's just the way he plays and I am not too concerned about it."
Wasps have followed last year's pattern by spending time at Bisham Abbey in the build-up. However, Tuesday night's game meant a week-long preparation was impossible, although Melville does not see that as a particular problem.
"It was quite nice to have a game, actually," he said. "Instead of kicking each other, we have had someone else to kick and we couldn't have replicated the crowd noise and the scoreboard breaking down when we were in front. Maybe we have not had the time I would have wanted but we have gone through a few things on video and hopefully we will be fine."
Northampton's coach, John Steele, has named a 25-man squad for the match, although he is still awaiting the outcome of late tests before finalising his line-up. The winger Craig Moir (knee) and lock Jon Phillips (hamstring) are the main concerns, although both Lam and England captain Matt Dawson expect to start after shaking off shoulder injuries.
The squad includes two survivors from Northampton's last Twickenham visit when they lost the 1991 final to Harlequins. The England forward Tim Rodber is back, together with winger Harvey Thorneycroft, who could start if Scotland international Moir fails to recover in time.
Wasps (probable): J Lewsey; S Roiser, M Denney, R Henderson, K Logan; A King, M Wood; D Molloy, T Leota, W Green, S Shaw, A Reed, J Worsley, P Volley, L Dallaglio. Replacements: M Friday, J Ufton, F Waters, A Le Chevalier, D Macer, M Weedon, P Scrivener.
Northampton squad: Backs: N Beal H Thorneycroft, C Moir, B Cohen, M Tucker A Northey, A Bateman M Allen, P Grayson, S Hepher, M Dawson, D Malone; Forwards: G Pagel, M Stewart, M Scelzo, F Mendez, S Walter, R Metcalfe, A Newman, J Phillips, T Rodber, D Mackinnon, S Holmes, A Pountney, P Lam.
* The Newport centre Andy Marinos has been asked by the Welsh Rugby Union to produce documents to prove that he is eligible to play for Wales. The Zimbabwe-born Marinos played for Wales in their summer friendly against the United States at the Millennium Stadium.
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