Wasps shift Cipriani for Leicester rematch

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The Independent Online

The clash of the English titans on Welsh ground at the Millennium Stadium a week ago was a tad livelier than even Brian Moore saw it to be from his commentators' perch. "It's like Liverpool v Man United without the diving and whingeing," the old pitbull proclaimed as Leicester beat Wasps 34-24 in an EDF Energy Cup semi-final. But with alleged punching, he might have added – had he picked up the off-the-ball spat that led the citing commissioners to the door of the not-so-shy but soon-to-be-retiring Lawrence Dallaglio.

It remains to be seen whether Wasps' subsequent imposition of a seven-day suspension will take the sting out of the Rugby Football Union's response, but one heavyweight collision within this afternoon's rematch at Welford Road has, unfortunately, been averted. There has been an element of the x-factor, bordering at times on the x-rated, since Dallaglio started going toe-to-toe with Martin Corry in January 1994, when the latter was studying at Northumbria University and playing for Newcastle, who had yet to reinvent themselves as the Falcons.

Perhaps there will yet be one last hurrah between the totemic No 8s before Dallaglio swaps boots for slippers next month, but Wasps have serious ground to make up if they are to reach the Premiership play-offs and Welford Road has not been the best of grounds for them.

Today's visit will be the Londoners' 17th on league duty and they are looking for a first win. "We are under no illusions about the size of the challenge we face at Leicester," Shaun Edwards, Wasps' head coach, said. "But we have gone about our preparations this week with a quiet determination to give a better account of ourselves than we did last weekend, when we didn't play to our potential."

Those preparations have included a positional change that has removed another anticipated head-to-head from the match between the champions of England and the champions of Europe. In an effort to put the Tigers on the hop, no doubt, Edwards and Ian McGeechan, Wasps' director of rugby, have moved Danny Cipriani from outside-half to full-back. Hence there will be no direct re-match between the new England No 10, who scored two tries last week, and Andy Goode, who lived up to his name and more with a masterful, man-of-the-match performance.

"Danny was outstanding in attack from fly-half last week," Edwards said, "but we have moved him to full-back for this match as we wanted more experience in the back three."

Still, the sight of Danny boy in the No 15 shirt could be a promising omen for the visitors, who start the afternoon seventh in the table and eight points shy of a play-off spot, albeit with two matches in hand.

Wasps have only won one of their last six games against Leicester. That was in the Heineken Cup final at Twickenham last May, when Cipriani was deployed at full-back. They won convincingly, 25-9.

Sadly for the Londoners, their grip on the European crown has already been loosened and with the Anglo-Welsh trophy also out of the picture their season has come down to a fight to reach the play-offs – "And making a dent in them if we get there," as Edwards puts it.

Their priority today will be to get a grip in the line-out, and to that end Simon Shaw's return to the second row should be a considerable boost. Also back after injury is the flanker Tom Rees, in a reshuffled back row.

If it is a vital weekend for the holders of the Heineken Cup, then the same applies to the three English clubs who will be playing in the quarter-finals next Saturday and Sunday. London Irish and Saracens prepare for their ties (at home to Perpignan and the Ospreys respectively) with home fixtures tomorrow, against Bristol and Leeds. For Gloucester, with Olly Morgan restored at full-back and Alex Brown back in the second row, there is a trip up the M5 to Worcester this afternoon.

The Cherry and Whites have lost their last five games on the road. It is just as well they face Munster a week tonight not at Thomond Park but on the green, green grass of Kingsholm.

Premiership team news

*Harlequins v Newcastle (Today, 3pm)

Nick Easter is on Quins' blind-side flank and Ugo Monye is at outside centre. Newcastle bring in Andy Buist to play No 6.

*Leicester v Wasps (Today, 2.45pm)

Leicester have Jordan Crane at No 8 and Martin Corry on the blind-side. Marcos Ayerza is at loose-head. Wasps have Tom Rees back at No 7; Raphaël Ibanez captains the side from hooker.

*Worcester v Gloucester (Today, 3pm)

Worcester have Rico Gear on the bench. Gloucester's Olly Morgan is at full-back for the first time since December and the lock Alex Brown also returns, recovered from a fractured jaw.

*London Irish v Bristol (Tomorrow, 3pm)

Irish move Mike Catt from centre to fly-half and Peter Hewat starts at full-back. Bristol give a full debut to the academy flanker Iain Grieve, who is joined in the back row by Joe El Abd, the captain and open-side flanker.

*Saracens v Leeds (Tomorrow, 3pm)

Kevin Sorrell returns to Saracens' starting line-up after a two-month absence and partners Adam Powell in the centres. Andy Farrell is on the bench. Leeds have a dozen players injured but the hooker Rob Rawlinson has been passed fit.

David Llewellyn

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