London Wasps were last in the Heineken Cup knock-out stages back in 2007 – when they went all the way and lifted the trophy for the second time in the space of four tournaments.
Now they go into the final two Rounds of Pool matches with 15 points in the bank and just two points adrift of Pool 6 pacesetters Toulouse, the defending champions who have got a record fifth Heineken Cup crown in their sights.
Glasgow Warriors at Firhill on Sunday is the first challenge for Wasps and then comes the huge clash of champions at Adams Park when Toulouse and Wasps meet in the climax to the Pool stages.
“I look at qualification for the Heineken Cup as the hardest thing,” said Wasps Director of Rugby Tony Hanks. “But once you have done that and are in the tournament the next thing is to get through to the quarter-finals and that was the initial goal we set for ourselves at the start of the season.
“What we have achieved so far is to keep ourselves in contention – especially with the back-to-back wins over Newport Gwent Dragons – but we accept we will have to be at our best to get through this weekend and beat a very good Glasgow side away.
“And although we did beat them 38-26 in Round 2 at Adams Park, this will be a completely different game. We had a huge point to prove when we played them at our place having just lost to Toulouse as it made that home game really important if we were to make an impact in the group.
“They will be a different proposition up there in Glasgow and we know we will be up against a very physical, tough and proud team. I have got an enormous amount of respect for Sean Lineen and Gary Mercer. We accept they will be prepared really well by the coaches and keen to make up for the disappointments they felt after their performance in Adams Park.”
“Glasgow are a very hard side to break down – that is all part of their culture and attitude of playing for each other – and they also have some young and talented players like Ruaridh Jackson, Max Evans and Richie Gray while full back Bernardo Stortoni always seems to give us problems.”
Wasps have won all three previous tournament meetings with Glasgow and go into the contest in fifth place in the Aviva Premiership.
“Before the last rounds of the Heineken Cup it is always pleasing to be well placed in your domestic league and in England it is very tight right across the board, anyone of eight or nine teams vying for the top six places and automatic qualification for the 2011 / 2012 Heineken Cup,” said Hanks.
“But now our entire focus is on the Heineken Cup – and everyone knows that no poor teams qualify for the quarter-finals.
“Looking back at the earlier matches the opener against Toulouse has to go down as one that got away. We were able to put them under pressure and we managed the conditions really well. To have gone as close as we did against a full strength and very talented Toulouse team was disappointing.
“But that has gone and is in the past and we are most certainly not looking beyond Round 5 on Sunday – that would be totally disrespectful to Glasgow.
“The first thing for us is go to Glasgow and do the job.
“Against the Dragons we would have preferred to play them at Rodney Parade – Cardiff City Stadium was a difficult place to play, it was a bit of an eerie atmosphere – so we were glad to come away with the win and take nine points from the two matches against them.”