Wasps take on Stade with Champions Cup place at stake

James Haskell will play against his former club Stade Francais.

James Haskell will play against his former club Stade Francais.

First published in Sport by

EXACTLY ten years ago today Wasps beat Toulouse to win their first Heineken Cup.

Tomorrow they will try to make history again by finishing the job they started at Adams Park last Sunday.

They met Stade Francais in the first ever skirmish of the new European Rugby Champions Cup, winning a gripping game 30-29 to take the slenderest of slender leads to Paris for the second leg of their home and away play-off.

The aggregate winners will join the big beasts of European rugby in the continent’s new and improved premier club competition but, despite drawing first blood in Wycombe, Wasps will run out at the recently renovated Stade Jean-Bouin as substantial underdogs.

With money to burn off the pitch and pace to burn on it, their French hosts are trying to rekindle past glories and this season they’ve made significant gains.

They won their first 13 home matches this season, peaking with 38-3 and 23-0 pastings of Biarritz and Toulon, and headed the Top 14 for long spells before tapering off this spring.

Stade will also be strengthened tomorrow by the return of the fit again Les Blues fly half Jules Plisson and Italian talisman Sergio Parisse, but there is still plenty for Wasps to cling on to.

Director of rugby Dai Young said: “If we play for 80 minutes like we did in patches last week then I think that would be enough to go though, to be quite honest.

“We’ll score tries and we’ll cause them lots of problems.

“But we need to be very efficient without the ball. We can’t make the same mistakes we made last week, we need to make them work for their points.”

The teams shared six tries in Wycombe and Young is expecting a similarly open return leg, despite their enhanced focus on defence.

He said: “If you go out there just to defend you’d be on the wrong end of a good hiding because they’re a quality team with quality, world stars.

“We’ve got to go out there and score a lot of points if we want to win because they’ve got a team that is going to score points, there’s no doubt about that.

“But both teams want the same thing, both teams want to be playing in the top tier in Europe so this is a big game for everybody – the fans, the players and anyone who works in the offices.

“I think it will be fantastic out there.”

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