London Wasps will welcome Richard Birkett back from injury at The Stoop on Saturday as they go head to head with local rivals Harlequins in the Aviva Premiership.

Birkett is just one of the changes made to the side that secured a 33-16 win over Newcastle Falcons at Adams Park last weekend. The Wasps stalwart, with 223 appearances to his name, returns to play following surgery to his elbow having last featured in black and gold back in October against Glasgow in the Heineken Cup.

As well as the addition of Birkett, who replaces Will Matthews in the back row, further changes are made in the pack as Simon Shaw and Joe Worsley are rested. Shaw is replaced by Marty Veale whilst Serge Betsen comes in for Worsley.

The front row remains unchanged but with injuries sustained to Rob Webber and Joe Ward in recent weeks, Wasps name new signing Michael Mayhew on the bench. Hooker Mayhew joins the club on a short-term contract from North Harbour, where he has worked under former Wasp Craig Dowd.

Amongst the backs Mark Van Gisbergen starts at full back, having been named on the bench last weekend. Richard Haughton moves to the wing to partner Tom Varndell, with David Lemi named amongst the replacements. Ben Jacobs again captains the side and partners Steve Kefu in midfield as Riki Flutey moves to fly half.

With Flutey at 10, Dave Walder is named on the bench which also bolstered by the return of Joe Simpson after recovery from a hamstring strain. Continuing to blood their young aspiring talents, this weekend’s replacements also feature Academy pairing of Sam Jones and Joe Launchbury. 19 year old back row Launchbury, who joined the club from Worthing training under former Wasp Will Green, gains his first senior matchday 23 inclusion having impressed in the A League this season.

Looking ahead to the game, Director of Rugby Tony Hanks said, “We are pleased to welcome Richard Birkett back to play, he is a huge part of the club and is a proven performer so he certainly bolsters the side going into this game which is huge for both teams.

“Notable changes see Riki Flutey at fly half for this game – a position that he is equally comfortable in. Steve Kefu and Ben Jacobs have formed a strong partnership in midfield and this move allows Riki to continue to build on his game time following a return from injury. Dave Walder has played a lot rugby already this season so these changes allow us to manage our squad but also name the right team for this fixture.

“We are pleased to welcome Michael Mayhew to the club. Working under Craig Dowd at North Harbour he is already familiar with Wasps and comes highly recommended, providing us with vital cover following injuries to Rob Webber and Joe Ward. We are also pleased to see Joe Launchbury step up to the senior stage. Joe has impressed since joining from Worthing and fully deserves his place, which would have come sooner had injury not hampered the start of his season.

“Wasps v Quins fixtures are always hugely competitive and we expect Saturday’s game to be no different. Both teams are pushing for vital points and on the back of recent form it should be a good showdown between the two London sides.”

London Wasps team to face Harlequins on Saturday 8th January, KO 2.45pm:

15 Mark Van Gisbergen
14 Richard Haughton
13 Ben Jacobs (C)
12 Steve Kefu
11 Tom Varndell
10 Riki Flutey
9 Nic Berry
1 Tim Payne
2 Tom Lindsay
3 Zak Taulafo
4 Marty Veale
5 James Cannon
6 Richard Birkett
7 Serge Betsen
8 Andy Powell

16 Michael Mayhew
17 Charlie Beech
18 Ben Broster
19 Joe Launchbury
20 Sam Jones
21 Joe Simpson
22 Dave Walder
23 David Lemi