Wasps skipper Joe Launchbury says it is do or die
For Wasps, tomorrow afternoon’s European Champions Cup round five clash with Harlequins has the most straightforward possible back-story.
Barring a mathematical miracle, anything less than a win ends the black-and-golds’ interest in this year’s competition. Meanwhile, four or better still five points, positions next week’s Ricoh Arena clash with Ulster as the most vital game of the season to date.
For tomorrow’s pool one opponents, the situation is equally clear – but less hopeful. Regardless of the outcome at the Stoop or of their round six visit to La Rochelle, John Kingston’s team are unable to progress to the knock-out stages.
But despite the clubs’ varying situations, visiting skipper Joe Launchbury’s experience of countless Wasps-versus-Quins clashes tells him that the toughest of tests awaits the visitors in a fixture which resonates with 150 years of history.
“It’s a huge match against Quins,” he says. “It sounds strange, but it’s a cup final even though one side don't have anything to play for. I know full well the mentality of their players and I know they want to upset the party for us.
“It's a must-win game for us. We don't know fully what the permutations are going to be over the next two weeks, but we do know that to have any chance we have to win the next two games.
“They're a team packed full of international quality. In their starting XV a large proportion are internationals, and they're in key positions for the team. The way they play the game, up-front they'll physically try to take us on, and they've also got some X-factor players in the backs, so we've got to be careful when we kick to them.”
Launchbury says his team are fully focussed on progressing to the last eight in Europe for a fourth consecutive season, and believes Wasps can continue the generally upward trajectory their campaign has taken since losing in Ulster in round one.
“Going away to Harlequins is always a tough game, they always played well at home and have continued to do that this season,” he says.
“We understand it's going to be a huge challenge and one we have to take head on if we want to stay in this competition, which we do.
“After the first games we were in a tough spot regarding getting out of the group. But credit to the group here, we’ve managed to claw points out of the last three games and put ourselves back in a position where we can get out of the group with two big performances.”
Make sure you're at the Ricoh Arena for Wasps' European Champions Cup fixture against Ulster Rugby on Sunday 21st January (3:15pm KO).
Tickets are still available for this crunch clash, priced from just £24 for adults while under 10s go FREE in many areas of the stadium.
To secure your tickets, visit wasp.co.uk/tickets or call the Ricoh Arena Ticket Office on 02476 786411.