WASPS were handed a huge boost on Saturday when Italy international Andrea Masi returned to action weeks earlier than expected.

The 32-year-old needed surgery after injuring ligaments in his knee agains Sale last Sepetember.

He wasn’t expected back until mid-February but came on for the final 20 minutes of Wasps’ 22-15 victory over London Irish.

Masi is expected to play again in the LV=Cup match at Gloucester next weekend ahead of a full reintegration into the Wasps side during a four-game Premiership block against Harlequins, London Irish, Bath and Sale.

Defence coach Brad Davis said: “He’s come back weeks earlier than what we expected and that’s testament to his character.

“It’s nice to see him out on the field. Hopefully we can give him a litle bit more game time next week and then he can put his hand up for selection for that block of four Premiership games.”

Masi’s return reduces the strain that been on the Wasps backs department this season, with Tom Varndell, Elliot Daly, Christian Wade and Hugo Southwell all injured now or earlier in the campaign.

Davis said: “It gives us a few options on what we can do with the back line.

“Stephen [Jones’] hands have been tied for much of the season with the injury setbacks we’ve had with our wings and our centres, so it’s good we’re getting a number back.

“But saying that, I thought Will Helu looked great at 13 [against London Irish].”