Rugby

Wasps top the table but Premiership title still at stake

2017-05-07 06:33

London - Wasps finished top of the English Premiership table after ending the regular season with a 35-15 win at home to defending champions Saracens on Saturday.

But both clubs made their way into the title-deciding play-offs after they each secured top four spots.

Wasps, however, will have home advantage in their semi-final against Leicester on May 20 when third-placed Saracens travel to Exeter, with the final at Twickenham the following weekend.

Saracens, assured of a top four spot, fielded a weakened side against Wasps, with five British and Irish Lions missing ahead of their European Champions Cup final against Clermont in Edinburgh on May 13.

The London club are also the reigning European champions and Saracens' director of rugby Mark McCall had no qualms in justifying his selection policy.

"Whether people do or don't agree with the team we picked, we felt it was the right thing," McCall said.

"We take the Premiership very seriously but we had some choices to make. The other semi-finalists all get to rest their players next weekend," the former Ireland centre added.

"We feel we've done the right thing because there were some players who we really felt needed to rest.

"One or two were carrying small injuries who would have played had this been the semi-final, but we thought it was a gamble playing them.

"The Champions Cup is a really important competition, a massive competition, so to be in the final again is brilliant," explained McCall, who stressed Wasps "definitely deserved" to win on Saturday.

England back Elliot Daly, selected for the Lions' upcoming tour of New Zealand, scored the 71st-minute bonus-point try that helped Wasps finish level on points with second-placed Exeter but end the regular season top of the standings courtesy of winning two more matches than the Chiefs.

For Wasps boss David Young, himself a former Wales and Lions prop, there was a family feeling about Saturday's success as his son Thomas, a 24-year-old back-row, ran in three tries.

David Young now hopes his son has done enough to earn selection for Wales's June Tests away to Samoa and Tonga.

"Thomas is not a bad player. I think his mother would be pretty pleased!" Young said.

"With the Welsh squad picked on Tuesday I hope he gets his opportunity in the summer.

"I don't know where he got his pace from, the milkman stopped delivering years ago!", he joked.

But on a more serious point, Young was delighted to see Wasps top the standings, while acknowledging just how hard it was to subdue even an under-strength Saracens.

"Finishing top of the table is a major achievement and we're happy with that," he said. "We were the better team but they could have won.

"Saracens take some shifting, you have to beat them three or four times."

Exeter beat southwest rivals Gloucester 34-20 on Saturday while Leicester edged out fellow Midlands club Worcester 28-23.

But Leicester's thoughts soon turned to the Youngs family, with Tigers and England scrumhalf Ben Youngs announcing later Saturday he was withdrawing from the Lions' upcoming tour of New Zealand.

Ben has pulled out to offer support to older brother Tom after it was confirmed the cancer suffered by the wife of the Leicester, England and Lions hooker had become a terminal illness.

Read more on:    wasps  |  rugby
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