Monday 19 March 2018

Wasps don't fear mission impossible

Nathan Hughes will miss the game due to suspension
Nathan Hughes will miss the game due to suspension

Duncan Bech

Wasps have been challenged to launch a new dynasty of European success when they face Toulon in their Champions Cup quarter-final today.

Mission impossible confronts the Aviva Premiership underdogs on the Cote d'Azur, where the star-studded champions are plotting their route to an unprecedented third successive title.

Losing wings Christian Wade and Sailosi Tagicakibau to hamstring injuries and powerful number eight Nathan Hughes to suspension has only heightened the sense that Wasps' return to the knockout stages will end in France.

But director of rugby Dai Young insists they are capable of stunning Toulon, evoking the club's European glory days of the noughties while declaring it is time for the new generation to leave their calling card on the continent.

"We're very proud and respectful for the club's history and tradition, but we have a determined group now who want to start making their own mark," Young said.

"Wasps are a huge name and the players believe they have a responsibility when they pull on the jersey, but we're at the stage where we are determined to make our own way.

"We want people to be talking about this Wasps team rather than referring back to the other guys all the time. To get out of the group was a big achievement for us and then if I had to pick a team to face in the quarters, it would have been Toulon.

"Not only are we playing against the double champions, but this group is still learning - learning how to win tight game and adapting tactics when things aren't going so well. Winning, successful teams have to be developed, they don't just happen overnight, so going to Toulon will be huge for the development of this team.

"No one expected us to get out of the group, so in a lot of people's eyes this is a shot to nothing."

Captain James Haskell, who returns to the back row after being rested against Northampton last weekend, insists Wasps are in familiar territory.

"Wasps have always defied the odds. We defied the odds in staying up, we defied the odds in finding a new owner and once again the odds are stacked against us," Haskell said.

"We are underdogs against Toulon because of their pedigree, but I firmly believe we have the ability to get a result down there. If any team can do it then we can because of our unpredictability."

Today's second quarter-final sees last season's runners-up Saracens visit Racing Metro, with scrumhalf Richard Wigglesworth leading the team in the injury enforced absence of lock Alistair Hargreaves, partnering Charlie Hodgson at half-back.

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