Lee Blackett poised as Wasps prepare to face Montpellier
Wasps boss Lee Blackett is braced for a major Heineken Champions Cup test against “very confrontational” French challengers Montpellier on Friday.
Wasps opened their European campaign with a bonus point victory over the Dragons in Newport last weekend.
And they now return to the Ricoh Arena for a game that would strengthen their quarter-final ambitions from Pool A if they win.
Montpellier lost at home to Leinster five days ago, but Blackett said: “Montpellier are a big physical team that are very confrontational and are going to come at you.
“They are one of the heaviest sides in the Top 14, and they’ve got internationals throughout.
“In their last away game, they went away and beat Clermont Auvergne. I thought they were outstanding. That was them at their best.
“It will be about not allowing them to impose their game on us, and us trying to impose our game on them.”
Blackett has made five changes from the side that won in Wales, with an international quartet of Dan Robson, Will Rowlands, Jack Willis and Joe Launchbury rested and Will Porter, Tim Cardall, Ben Morris and James Gaskell named as their respective replacements.
“Our international players were keen to play, but they have to have a mandated amount of rest, and we thought it was better to give them a well-deserved break with a busy period to come,” Blackett added.
“We’ve spoken before about being adaptable. It is key over this period that we keep on being adaptable.
“We can’t use anything as an excuse, and we definitely won’t be.
“I am pleased with the result last weekend. Our performance was definitely better than what it had been. We are moving in the right direction.”
Two of Pool A’s unbeaten teams – the Scarlets and Toulon – go head-to-head in Llanelli on Friday.
And the Scarlets are boosted by star Wales centre Jonathan Davies returning to their starting line-up, in addition to wing Johnny McNicholl, who has recovered from a rib injury, and fit-again flanker Josh Macleod.
But Wales international forwards Samson Lee and Jake Ball, who are both following head injury return-to-play protocols after going off during last Saturday’s victory over Bath, and flanker Jac Morgan are sidelined.
In the European Challenge Cup on Friday, Newcastle will look to bounce back from an opening round defeat against Cardiff Blues when they visit Castres.
“French teams are generally tough to beat on their own patch, although, having said that, our record in France isn’t too bad,” Newcastle rugby director Dean Richards said.
“We won in Toulon two years ago and in Bordeaux the year before, and we are going over there with nothing to lose.
“It would be lovely to come back into the Gallagher Premiership with some real momentum from Europe, even though they are two very different competitions.”