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BRAD SHIELDS returns to reinforce Wasps in time for the launch of their Champions Cup campaign against Leinster in Dublin tomorrow night.
Shields has been missing since fracturing his cheekbone on his club debut on September 8 but the New Zealand-born England flanker is restored to the back row.
Worryingly for England head coach Eddie Jones, Wasps captain Joe Launchbury is still unavailable due to the knee injury he sustained in mid-September.
Director of rugby Dai Young stated if Launchbury was unable to train fully on Tuesday having had an injection then he would most likely face clear-out surgery, ruling him out for “weeks not months.”
That prognosis would threaten his involvement in the autumn series, but another Wasp who will definitely not be involved at Twickenham next month is Dan Robson who has been sidelined for three months because of an ankle problem.
Robson was hoping to break into England’s matchday 23 against South Africa, New Zealand, Japan and Australia but now faces a lengthy period of rehabilitation after limping off against Gloucester on Saturday.
The return of Shields in the back row is offset by Nathan Hughes’s absence due to his suspension for punching against Johan Ackermann’s men, although the exact length of the ban has yet to be revealed.
In two major boosts to the back line, Lima Sopoaga has recovered from a neck spasm to resume at fly-half while Willie Le Roux is back from Rugby Championship duty with South Africa.
Wasps face the toughest possible start to their European quest in locking horns with Stuart Lancaster’s reigning champions, a match they enter on the back of a 35-21 home defeat to Gloucester.
“We’ve had the kick in the backside going into this game. It’s up to us to respond,” Young said.
“It adds some intensity when you think about who you are playing.
“We’ve played Leinster a few times over the past couple of seasons and we’ve got a huge respect for the way they play the game.
“We’re under no illusions, we’re not going there as favourites but we’re looking forward to it.”
Jonathan Sexton returns at fly-half for Leinster, who have reverted to their strongest team after overcoming Munster in the Guinness PRO14 last weekend.
Tonight’s only Challenge Cup fixture, Sale travel to Perpignan still reeling from the news that in-form wing Marland Yarde has been ruled out for the rest of the season by a knee injury.
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