London Irish must not feel the pressure in battle against relegation, says Miles Harrison
Miles Harrison looks ahead to London Irish's crucial Premiershp clash against Wasps on Sunday.
Last Updated: 25/02/13 8:14pm
The Exiles - attempting to continue a run of 16 straight years in England's top-flight - came unstuck against Bath last time out after winning back-to-back Premiership games. Wasps, for their part, made it five victories in a row by beating Gloucester.
Sky Sports commentator Miles Harrison looks ahead to the match - which you can watch live from 12pm on Sunday, on Sky Sports 2 HD - and explains why there's still hope for London Irish...
Wasps strengthened their position in the play-off places with a 33-29 win over Gloucester last time out - what did you make of their performance?
MILES REPLIES: They are winning and you can't take that away from them and nor would you want to - given where they were this time last season, this a great effort from everybody at Wasps. But Dai Young was quick to point out this week that maybe his side got the 'rub of the green' a little against Gloucester, as perhaps they did against Quins the week before. However, it was another impressive result and there are always moments these days with Wasps when they look really good. They have many of the components to make a fine side - excellent line-out, powerful back-row, talented half-backs, strong and gain-line crossing centres and, of course, a lethal pair of wingers. There is no reason why Wasps can't keep dreaming and perhaps believing too now that the top four is in their compass. Top six is their stated aim but if they keep coming up with these wins, then the top four is where they will be and at the end of 22 rounds nobody will able to say that they didn't deserve it or indeed that it was the result of the 'rub of the green.'
Wasps have transformed their fortunes after facing relegation last season. What have been the key factors in their improvement?
MILES REPLIES: Right at the top of the list would have to be the fact that Young has had time now to work with a squad that he has managed to mould and not just the one he inherited. Young has also made some good signings on and off the pitch and the addition of Shane Howarth to the coaching team should not be underestimated. Also, the injury crisis that hit the club seems to have gone away, which of course gives them stability in selection and the chance to make choices for all the right reasons. And, last but not least, off the field there is a much more positive feel about the club's future financially.
London Irish, meanwhile, are struggling at the other end of the table and were soundly beaten by Bath last week. Can they raise their game this weekend against Wasps?
MILES REPLIES: I don't think that there is any doubt that the Irish will be up for this at the weekend! Bath are actually playing some really good stuff now and Irish didn't play too badly - the sin bins hurt them and the score may well have flattered Bath. And Irish have proved in their recent home win against Saracens just what they can do themselves. And that home factor is going to be key for them in the run in. They have Sale, London Welsh and Worcester all still to come to the Madjeski and if they can run into those games on the back of another win against a top four team, then they will be feeling pretty ok about what lies ahead. All season they have said that they are looking up the table but the reality is that they are now in the mire - there is no getting away from that fact but when you look at the fixture list, it is most definitely still in their hands. These are precious points on Sunday regardless of the fact that they have their relegation 'rivals' coming to Reading in the weeks to come. If Sale can continue their improvement and pull off one of the shocks of the season by doing a job on Quins on Friday night, then Irish could be going into Sunday's game bottom of the table. There would be no escaping that fact, although there would still be a chance of escaping the drop.
Do you think London Irish will be able to lift themselves clear of danger before the end of the season?
MILES REPLIES: Yes, I do. That win against Saracens was the perfect example of what they can do. But, as I said before, this situation is for real now and teams can react in two ways. Irish must prove on Sunday, as they must prove in every game from hereon in, that they are going to react in the best possible way and not feel the pressure to the point where it stops them from gathering the points. It's a big Six Nations weekend but this game on Sunday is all that matters down at London Irish. And, the same goes for Wasps - it should be a fascinating lunchtime showdown.