Dai Young has stressed a need for Wasps to “hit the ground running” when they chase a European Champions Cup quarter-final place on Sunday.
An away victory for Wasps over Italian minnows Zebre will guarantee a last-eight spot, but they would also win the group if Toulouse beat Connacht in Sunday’s other Pool Two clash.
Zebre have failed to collect a point from five games in this season’s tournament, but Young is cautious about the task ahead. “We know how important the result is on Sunday, and we need to focus on ourselves and our performance, rather than other results,” he said.
“Teams like Zebre will always want to leave a mark in any competition, and if you look through their home games in the PRO12 this season, they have nearly caused a few upsets, so we will pay them the respect they deserve.
“I am sure they will look at us as their last opportunity to cause a wave in this competition, so it’s important that we are in the right place mentally and our accuracy is good. It’s also important that we start strongly and hit the ground running.”
England flanker James Haskell makes his first start of the season for Wasps, while the likes of Elliot Daly, Danny Cipriani and Kurtley Beale also feature. Haskell’s comeback off the bench a fortnight ago after seven months out due to a toe injury ended after just 35 seconds when he suffered a head knock in the Aviva Premiership game against Leicester.
Young added: “We expect our bench to play a big part again.
“We have a number of players who have played a lot of rugby, backing up game after game. So we have named a strong side for an important must-win game, while also managing the players as best we can.
“We’ve got a job to do, and we’ve got to go out there and make sure we do it.
“We cannot underestimate them because they have the ability to spoil the party, so we have just got to make sure we do our job.”
Connacht will reach the last-eight for the first time in their history if they topple Toulouse, but a win for their opponents could spell pool stage heartache.
The Irish challengers beat Toulouse earlier this season, and currently top their group, one point above Wasps and four clear of the French heavyweights.
Connacht head coach Pat Lam said: “We are top of the pool, and we’ve worked hard to be there.
“We have earned the right to be where we are now, and more importantly going into this game to have that control in our hands is great.
“We have worked hard right through this pool to get ourselves into a situation where we go out to win, so we do our work, we prepare, and whatever it takes to win the game is what we are after.
“Of course we are aware of other scenarios, but we have a mindset that it is not about bonus points, but preparing to go into the biggest game of Connacht’s history.
“Toulouse will punish us badly if we don’t get it right.”