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Leicester eyeing top-four berth as they start life without Richard Cockerill


Aaron Mauger will be in charge of Leicester against Aviva Premiership opponents Wasps on Sunday

Aaron Mauger will be in charge of Leicester against Aviva Premiership opponents Wasps on Sunday

Aaron Mauger will be in charge of Leicester against Aviva Premiership opponents Wasps on Sunday

Leicester will begin life after Richard Cockerill on Sunday following what Tigers head coach Aaron Mauger describes as "an emotional week."

Cockerill's reign as rugby director ended five days ago, with New Zealander Mauger stepping up to take charge during an interim period that begins against Wasps at the Ricoh Arena.

A crowd of around 26,000 is expected as Wasps look to strengthen their title claims and Leicester target keeping themselves in play-off contention.

"Our guys are excited by the challenge of going to Wasps," Mauger said.

"It has been an emotional week, but the focus has been good, the intensity has been good in training and we have to make sure we are up for it against a good Wasps side.

"We are 12 games down, and six points out of the top four.

"We have a good group of players and leaders, and I think we are capable of top four. If you get into the top four, you have a chance (of the title). We just need to be consistent.

"It has been a very tough season. We've had our ups and downs, we've had to deal with the changes over the last few days and now we all have a big job and a responsibility for the situation we are in.

"A lot of things we are doing are really good, but we need to make sure we do things better and be more consistent.

"We are not going to make drastic changes, but as a group and myself leading that we've got to make sure we give the guys the structure to perform as well as possible.

"We did a lot of good things last weekend. We created more opportunities than Saracens, we matched them and were more physical than them at times, but you switch off for 15 seconds and they score.

"We are competitive, we are not far off. It is about keeping belief there, believing we can go out and beat anybody and about getting a bit of confidence."

Mauger makes two changes from the team beaten by Saracens. Peter Betham moves into midfield from the wing instead of an injured Manu Tuilagi, with Tom Brady handed the number 11 shirt, and flanker Will Evans also starts.

James Haskell, meanwhile, is set to make his first appearance since suffering a toe injury during England's successful Australia tour last summer.

Wasps flanker Haskell is named on the bench, while three changes from the team that defeated Newcastle last time out see starts for Kurtley Beale, Jimmy Gopperth and Kearnan Myall.

Wasps rugby director Dai Young said: "Wasps against Leicester is always a big game, and this Sunday is no different.

"The clubs have enjoyed healthy rivalry over the decades, and there is a little bit of added spice now we are also neighbours, both battling it out to finish in the top part of the table come the end of the season.

"We've worked hard to get to the top of the table at the turn of the year, but it's at the end of the season you really want to be up there, rather than halfway through."