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Toulouse clash crucial to our European hopes, says Wasps star Launchbury

Wasps second-row Joe Launchbury believes their European Champions Cup clash with Toulouse will decide their fate in the competition.

Dai Young's side are joint top of Pool Two with Toulouse and Connacht, with all three teams locked on 13 points with two games left.

Just the winners go through to the knock-out rounds, with the three best runners-up also qualifying for the latter stages.

Wasps host Toulouse, with whom they drew 20-20 in October, on Saturday before travelling to face bottom side Zebre next week and England star Launchbury knows the importance of their game at the Ricoh Arena.

"If we lose this weekend it's probably looking like it could be all over," he said.

" It's a huge game, we've talked about it being a bit of a cup final really. All games in Europe are pretty much that - you have to win your games to get out of the group and we've already lost one now. We know the pressure is on. To be at home, playing to get out of the group, makes it a huge game for us.

"It's a big factor of me staying here. A few years ago we weren't playing in it and I desperately missed it. I was always jealous, but now we're back in it. It's the premier tournament in Europe and we want to stay in for as long as we can. We had a great run last year getting to the semi final and we want to replicate that."

Director of rugby Young was critical of how Wasps allowed Leicester back into their game during their 22-16 Aviva Premiership win over the Tigers last weekend

Wasps have still won six of their last seven games, their only defeat coming in the Champions Cup at Connacht, but, despite topping the Premiership champions, Launchbury feels they can still improve.

He said: "We have talked all season about having to make improvements, but we don't want to stifle our attacking game. We have to pragmatic at times, we've had three games Leicester, Newcastle away and Connacht where we've maybe not got it right in the final stages, so we're desperate to fix that.

"If it's on when we're in our 22 then it's on, but we have to perhaps be more pragmatic than we have been.

"They (Toulouse) have a massive pack, so it'll be a big challenge for us, one we're really excited for. Our scrum is definitely improving, it's one where we want to consistently improve. We have the players, so it's a case of doing it now."

The 25-year-old, who is expected to be included in England's Six Nations squad next week, should also be fit to face Toulouse to ease England head coach Eddie Jones' injury worries.

Launchbury suffered a calf problem last month, but has made a swift recovery.

"It's gone really well. As soon as I did it I was always really hopeful for this weekend. I'm delighted how it's gone and how the calf feels so I'm ready to go again," he added.


From Belfast Telegraph