January 22, 2015 / 4:57 PM / 3 years ago

Buzz around Wasps as they seek to sting Leinster

LONDON (Reuters) - Resurgent Wasps will hope that a 20,000-plus crowd roaring them on at the Ricoh Arena against Leinster on Saturday can carry them into the quarter-finals of the European Champions Cup.

The Pool 2 clash between the twice European champions and three-times winners is one of a number of exciting confrontations in the sixth and final round of matches this weekend with seven last eight places still up for grabs.

Only back-to-back Heineken Cup winners Toulon have so far secured qualification for the knockout stages. The five pool winners and three best-placed runners-up qualify for the last eight.

Leinster lead Wasps by two points but a 23-3 victory built on outstanding defence at previous pool leaders Harlequins in the last round has given Dai Young’s Wasps side confidence they can top the group.

The crowds have been flocking to the Ricoh Arena since Wasps played their first game in their new home in Coventry in December, with the club expecting a turnout of at least 24,000 on Saturday.

Wasps back rower James Haskell, named in England’s Six Nations squad on Wednesday, made 28 tackles against Quins -- the most any player has made in a Champions Cup game this season.

“It’s going to be huge, it’s going to be exciting. Loads of tickets sold... what more do you want?” he said of the Leinster clash.

Wasps director of rugby Young added: “We’ve got a huge battle ahead of us against Leinster, who have had such success and a strong tradition in Europe, but we’re looking forward to welcoming them to the Ricoh Arena.”

Ireland internationals Sean O‘Brien and Cian Healy are not yet ready to return for the Irish province.

Saracens, beaten by Toulon in last year’s last Heineken Cup final before the rebranded tournament was established, face an uphill task at Clermont Auvergne on Sunday to guarantee qualifying from Pool 1.

The French side are in pole position, a point clear of Sarries for whom a losing bonus point is unlikely to secure one of the three-runners-up spots.

Another shootout for Pool 5 spoils takes place at Franklin’s Gardens between Northampton and Racing Metro on Saturday, although with both sides on 19 points the loser will still have strong hopes of taking a last eight berth.

The permutations in Pool 4 are numerous where leaders Toulouse (16 points) travel to bottom side and Top 14 rivals Montpellier. Bath (15 points) and Glasgow (14) go head to head at The Rec.

Leicester’s hopes of joining Toulon in progressing from Pool 3 appear slim. The Tigers, on 13 points, could still miss out even if they can secure a bonus point victory at Ulster.

editing by Toby Davis

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