Wasps enjoying turnaround in fortunes
Published 28/02/2013 | 16:26
Wasps' transformation from Aviva Premiership relegation candidates to title play-off challengers could be underlined at Worcester on Friday night.
A bonus point victory for the Londoners might be enough to take them above Leicester and into third place with five games left.
It is less than 10 months ago that Wasps found themselves only surviving in top-flight English rugby by the skin of their teeth after finishing just one point above relegated Newcastle.
And for lock Marco Wentzel, Wasps' current standing among the Premiership title contenders is a welcome boost, having previously battled relegation with his current club and twice while he was a Leeds Carnegie player.
"It is never a great deal of fun battling against relegation, and I have had that for three years in a row," Wentzel said. "But on the other side, there is a great sense of achievement that you get from fighting for survival and then achieving it. There is a sense of camaraderie that you don't get with anything else.
"I think that this season we are enjoying the fruits of that battle last year. I am really enjoying this season. It is a completely different atmosphere and a totally different feeling coming to training every day. We haven't had that shadow cast over the team and things behind the scenes have begun to be sorted out. It is a big boost for the squad."
Wasps, though, will be without prolific try-scorer Christian Wade, who picked up a knock in the Irish game, with Elliot Daly replacing him and Italy international Andrea Masi featuring at outside centre.
Elsewhere, fly-half Nicky Robinson takes over from Stephen Jones, while Tim Payne and Phil Swainston return to front-row duty. Worcester, meanwhile, recall centre Jon Clarke, but full-back Errie Claassens misses out as he serves a one-match ban.
Gloucester, major challengers to Wasps in the play-off race, are boosted by the return of England international fly-half Freddie Burns at Bath. Burns has missed Gloucester's last five games due to a knee injury, but he features in a team captained by Mike Tindall against his former club.
"Freddie wasn't far away last week, but he is firing on all cylinders and it's great to have him back," Gloucester rugby director Nigel Davies said. "He's a very chirpy character who brings a lot to the group with his energy, let alone his ability."