Young backs Wasps attack against ‘legendary’ Saracens defence while Hughes returns ahead of schedule
Dai Young backs Wasps attack to best 'legendary' Saracens defence while England number eight Nathan Hughes makes early return to fitness.
Dai Young has backed his Wasps side to score points against Saracens “legendary defence” this weekend in their Premiership semi-final at Allianz Park.
“I’m confident we can go and score points against a legendary defence.” said Young, “Their defence is awesome, we all know that, but I’m confident we can go there and score. “
Wasps will have their hearts set on reaching consecutive Premiership finals with a victory this weekend after the disappointment of falling foul of reigning champions Exeter Chiefs in last year’s Twickenham finale.
Young also praised the work of departing England fly-half Danny Cipriani, who will be trading the Black and Yellow for Cherry and White next season.
“I think in the last three months he has been on fire in attack.” explained the Wasps Director of Rugby. Cipriani, 30, will be at the heart of Wasps’ attacking intentions this weekend and is sure to be keen on impressing England boss Eddie Jones in an effort to earn the right to significant game time in South Africa this month.
"Not the type of games you sit back and hope you don’t lose"
When asked whether his side would adopt a more pragmatic approach against an imposing, regimented Saracens side, Young reaffirmed the faith in his side’s ability to take the game to their hosts.
“These are the game you’ve got to go and win.” Young commented, “Obviously you don’t want to go and play carefree rugby, we’re not the Barbarians, and we’re not going there to just throw the ball about or be stupid about it.
“These are not the type of games you sit back and hope you don’t lose, these are the type of games you’ve got to go and win and you know you may have to take one or two risks, you don’t want to take too many and you don’t want to be stupid about it, but this is a game we’re going have to go and win.
“If we sit back and hope we don’t lose then that’s exactly what we’ll go and get and be on the wrong end of the result I’m sure.”
The Wasps boss also praised Saracens attacking capabilities, waving aside any suggestion of a turgid Saracens game plan.
“I think in fairness they don’t do what they’ve done over the last few seasons where they’ve not been able to play different ways. I think over the last season or two they’ve expanded the game and are playing a far wider game, which is far more expansive.
“That kick-chase pressure game is still there with them, you know they always revert back to course if they lose momentum”
“If the game is going away from them they’ll go back to looking for penalties at scrum time, driving lineouts, kick-chase and try to force you into mistakes and turnovers and so on.”
“We’ll have a challenge up front. Obviously they have power and we’ll have to stop their ball carriers, that’s something in the two games we’ve played them (this season) we haven’t been able to do, stop their ball carriers. They are a real team that thrives on momentum.
“ If they get momentum with their big strong carries, they get on the front foot and they become impossible to stop.”
The elusive 80-minute performance
At times this season, Wasps have struggled to maintain their performance for the duration of a game. The Champions Cup loss to Harlequins - which cost the side a shot at the quarterfinals - stands as the most obvious example.
Wasps had managed to take an early 21-0 point lead at the Stoop, but failed to hold on by the time Romain Poite blew the final whistle, losing 33-28 to a Harlequins side with nothing to play for. Wasps conceded three tries in the last 15 minutes of the match that had seemed tied up by the 20th minute.
When questioned on his team’s struggles so far this season, Young said: “That 80-minute performance has eluded us, certainly since Christmas on occasions.” Young continued, “They (Saracens) win a lot of games when they grind it down. The last 20 minutes they come strong.”
“I’ll make no bones about it, it’s something the players have recognised and we’ve worked on really, and I genuinely believe it’s more of a mind-set thing than anything. We’ve come unstuck a couple of times this season with that attitude.”
“A couple of other times we’ve scored with a couple of minutes to go to stop them being within a score.”
Hughes makes play-off return following fears of season- ending injury
Wasps will be without Tommy Taylor (knee) and Simon McIntyre (foot) this weekend, while James Haskell is currently struggling with a foot injury, but is expected to come through by the weekend.
Wasps are also set to welcome back England number eight Nathan Hughes this weekend. The Fijian born backrow had picked up a knee injury whilst on England duty that at first had been feared to have ended his season.
“It was always there or thereabouts whether he’d be fit for this game. In an ideal world we would have liked him to be fit for the Newcastle game to get some game time under his belt.
“In saying that, we had a look at him last week, we probably kept him a week longer doing more conditioning than rugby than we would have done normally.
“He’s probably in a better condition than when he played with England to be honest with you. He has probably got more miles under the clock than when he stepped up with England.
“Obviously he’s not going to be game fit, he hasn’t played for a number of weeks and I’m sure if he comes through training again with no reaction today and nothing on Thursday and he is involved I think it will be a big call.
“If he comes through, he’ll definitely be involved.“
Young also confirmed that second row James Gaskell was also fit again and in contention after picking up an ankle injury against Leicester Tigers in March.