Top English Premiership rugby club Wasps will play Connacht in a highly attractive season opening fixture at Dubarry Park, Athlone. This match, which will be Connacht new head coach Andy Friend’s first game in charge, kicks off at 3pm on Saturday, August 18. Tickets are now on sale for this encounter (see below for details ).
Wasps, who wear the same black and gold colours as host club Buccaneers, finished third in the English Premiership last season. This qualified them for the upcoming Champions Cup in which they have been drawn in the same pool as champions Leinster! Wasps have, of course, won this Cup twice when it was titled the Heineken Cup in 2003/4 and 2006/7.
They won the earlier final in dramatic fashion when Rob Howley chased his own kick ahead in the dying embers of a thriller to somehow ground the ball ahead of the dithering French international Clemont Poitrenaud to snatch a memorable last gasp win over Toulouse. Warren Gatland who also coached Connacht, was in charge of Wasps that season and both he and Howley have enjoyed notable success with the British & Irish Lions in the interim.
Wasps have also won the English Premiership title on a number of occasions including a glorious sequence in 2002/3, 2003/4, 2004/5 and 2007/8. Among the rugby legends who have played with distinction for Wasps are Rob Andrew, Nigel Melville, Jeff Probyn, Simon Shaw and Lawrence Dallaglio.
Among Wasps current internationals are Joe Launchbury, Elliott Daly, Danny Cipriani, Nathan Hughes and new signing Brad Shields who all featured in England’s recent summer tour to South Africa. The first three will be familiar with Dubarry Park, having been on England U-20 sides to play at the Athlone venue. Tom Willis and Gabriel Oghue were part of the England U-20 team, runners-up to France in the recent World Cup.
James Haskell, Paul Doran-Jones and Springbok Willie LeRoux are other multi-capped internationals in the Wasps squad, bolstered by the recent signings of props Kieran Brookes from Northampton Saints and Georgian Zurabi Zhvania from Stade Francais. Winger Christian Wade is just two tries short of his century for the club and could be looking to reach that landmark figure in Athlone!
Meanwhile, any Leinster supporters who journey to this game in the midlands will be well familiar with the capabilities of backs Jimmy Gopperth and Brendan Macken. So it will be a massive challenge for Connacht who have enjoyed memorable jousts with the English visitors in recent seasons.
Wasps have wandered from ground to ground but now look well settled in Coventry’s Ricoh Arena under Director of Rugby David Young for whom Irishman Ian Costello is defence coach.
Incidentally, Fr. John O’Brien, O.F.M., formerly of the Franciscan Friary in Athlone, was a close friend of ex-Wasps coach Shaun Edwards through whom he came to know the great England captain Dallaglio. The Edwards and Dallaglio families both suffered tragic deaths of young family members and Fr. John dedicated his book “Cry Me A River” to them.
Ticket and pre-match information
Tickets for the Connacht v Wasps match are keenly priced from only a fiver as follows:- Stand €15; Adult/Ground €10; Junior €5; Family (admits 2 adults + 2 juniors to Ground ) €20. The discounted price for Family tickets looks really good value. Tickets are NOT on sale at Buccaneers and can only be purchased through WWW.CONNACHTRUGBY.IE/TICKETS Meanwhile Buccaneers are hosting a pre-match function in The Bounty for this game. Cost is €50 per person for which you can enjoy a three course lunch with wine and complimentary Stand ticket. There will also be a limited number of places at the post-match function there which will also be attended by both teams. Contact our Administrator Geraldine at 0861732711 to book.