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Dai Young claims Wasps are underdogs against Exeter

Published 20/05/2016

Wasps rugby director Dai Young believes his team are underdogs for Saturday's Aviva Premiership play-off clash against Exeter
Wasps rugby director Dai Young believes his team are underdogs for Saturday's Aviva Premiership play-off clash against Exeter

Wasps boss Dai Young believes his team will go into battle as underdogs against Aviva Premiership play-off debutants Exeter on Saturday.

Young's men return to Sandy Park just three weeks after the Chiefs inflicted a heaviest Premiership defeat of the season on them.

That 24-3 reversal followed a 41-27 home loss against Exeter five months previously, although Wasps won a huge game in between when fly-half Jimmy Gopperth's injury-time conversion secured European Champions Cup quarter-final glory at the Ricoh Arena.

Wasps have featured in five previous Premiership play-offs, winning four, but it is their first appearance since 2008, when they went on to land the title by seeing off Twickenham opponents Leicester.

"We are hugely respectful of Exeter and everything they have achieved, and we know we are going in as underdogs, but we're quite comfortable with that scenario," Young said.

"When we played at Exeter a few weeks ago, the commitment and attitude was very good - I was really pleased - but we just didn't have that spring in our step. We didn't have any fuel in the tank, really.

"I think this will be different. If we do go down, we will go down fighting.

"But I do believe we've got some real X-factor players within our set-up, that a little bit of lady luck and with things going our way, we can cause teams problems."

Reflecting on Wasps' last visit to Devon, Young added: "Our defence was pretty good on the day, considering we had no ball.

"The set-piece was pretty good too. What we didn't do was fire our own shots. When we had the ball we lacked any gain-line efficiency.

"We didn't ask enough questions of them, so we have got to change up slightly what we've been doing over the last month really, so that we can get that gain-line, get some front-foot ball, play at some tempo."

Young makes a solitary switch from the side on Champions Cup semi-final duty against Saracens last month, with prop Jake Cooper-Woolley returning, while a number of Exeter changes see starts for Ian Whitten, Olly Woodburn, Ben Moon, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Geoff Parling and Don Armand.

Tickets for the Sandy Park clash sold out rapidly, and Chiefs' England wing Jack Nowell is determined to see Exeter grasp a golden opportunity of reaching next Saturday's Premiership final - where Saracens or Leicester will await - just six years after being promoted from the Championship.

Nowell said: "To be here in this situation getting ready to play a semi-final for a place in the final, it would be an awful shame to let that slip.

"But the important thing for us is not to let the occasion get ahead of us.

"At the end of the day, it is another game of rugby. There is a lot riding on it, but a game of rugby is a game of rugby, and once we focus on ourselves and play the way we want it, that's the most important thing."

Saracens, fresh from last Saturday's Champions Cup final triumph in Lyon, host Leicester at Allianz Park on Saturday, with rugby director Mark McCall predictably naming an unchanged team, while Tigers welcome back Manu Tuilagi, Mike Fitzgerald and Brendon O'Connor.

While Saracens prepare for a seventh successive play-off appearance, Leicester have made it 12 seasons in a row, and they can also reflect on reaching nine Premiership finals during the past 11 years.

"Saracens have already had a successful season in Europe. They were in control for most of the (Champions Cup) final and they deserved to win," Leicester rugby director Richard Cockerill said.

"They've had a big season. We know we have to go there and put everything on the line.

"For us, it is all to do, but we know if we are on our game and play how we can play, then we are certainly good enough. They will know that. Both sides will have a huge amount of respect for each other."

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