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Sunday 22 October 2017

Wasps boss Dai Young is ready to wipe the slate clean for Ulster clash

Dai Young says Wasps will launch their European Champions Cup campaign "with a smile on our faces" after a testing start to the domestic season.

Wasps lost four of their opening six league games while suffering several injury setbacks during the opening Aviva Premiership action.

But they head to Belfast for a Pool One opener against Ulster on Friday bolstered by the return of key players such as Joe Launchbury, Jimmy Gopperth, Nathan Hughes, Dan Robson and Christian Wade.

"We've parked the Premiership to one side for now, and we are really looking forward to getting stuck into a new tournament," Wasps rugby director Young said.

"We have dusted ourselves down and it's a good time for us to switch to a new competition with the slate wiped clean.

"We go to Belfast with a smile on our faces, ready to enjoy the experience, as that is when we play our best rugby. If we can produce the standard of rugby we know we're capable of, there is no reason why we can't get a result.

"The Kingspan Stadium is a great venue to play rugby, as I always found during my time coaching Cardiff, and our squad really enjoyed the atmosphere there in our pre-season game.

"Ulster have a quality squad, with threats throughout, so you have to be at your best if you are to get a result there.

"I am sure they will have ordered some rain in again, as well. I don't think I've ever been there on a Friday night when it hasn't been bucketing down!"

Ulster will be captained by British and Irish Lions forward Iain Henderson, who leads a starting line-up that includes 12 internationals.

The European Challenge Cup also kicks off on Friday, with Sale facing French heavyweights Toulouse at the AJ Bell Stadium in Pool Two, and their group rivals Cardiff Blues and Lyon meeting in Wales.

Australia international James O'Connor will make a full debut for Sale after recovering from summer ankle surgery, forging an exciting half-back partnership with South African Faf de Klerk.

"We knew when we signed Faf and James about the capabilities of their running rugby, and who wouldn't want to see them both out on the pitch?" Sale rugby director Steve Diamond said.

"James has impressed coming off the bench in the last two games. Defensively, he is good, and he knows how to run the shape for us.

"He doesn't need to pull every rabbit out of the hat on Friday. He just needs a good, steady game, and fingers crossed, he will play well.

"Last year we had Saracens and Toulon in the Champions Cup; this year we have the top two in the French league (Toulouse and Lyon), but it's a welcome break for us, given how competitive the Premiership is," said Diamond.

"We have got all guns blazing for Friday, and we want to keep up our good record at home."

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