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Wasps: BTSport.com's Gallagher Premiership 2019/20 season preview

After a sub-par eighth-place finish last season, Wasps have set their sights on gate-crashing the top six ahead of the season’s big kick-off.

Last season's Gallagher Premiership finish: 8th (W10 D0 L12 - Pts 51)

This season's target: Top six

Last season's top try scorer: Juan De Jongh, Joshua Bassett, Nathan Hughes (7)

Odds to win the Premiership: 25/1 (odds correct at the time of writing)

First four fixtures: London Irish (H), Gloucester (A), Bath (H), Sale (A)

Transfers in: Malakai Fekitoa (Toulon), Jeff Toomaga-Allen (Hurricanes), Jack Owlett (Exeter Chiefs), Ben Vellacott (Gloucester), Matteo Minozzi (Zebre), Sione Vailanu (Saracens), Mike Daniels (Nottingham), Biya Alo (Coventry), Theo Vukasinovic (London Scottish), Paolo Odogwu (Sale Sharks), Zach Kibirige (Newcastle Falcons)

Transfers out: Jake Cooper-Woolley (Sale Sharks), Ambrose Curtis (Vannes), Nathan Hughes (Bristol Bears), Matt Mullan (released), Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz), Will Stuart (Bath), Elliot Daly (Saracens), Joe Simpson (Gloucester), Joe Atkinson (Bedford Blues), Michele Campagnaro (Harlequins), Craig Hampson (Ealing Trailfinders), Antonio Harris (Jersey Reds), George Thornton (Glasgow Warriors), Gaby Lovobalavu (Oyonnax), Kearnan Myall (Oxford University)

Never want to miss a Wasps game? You can watch live matches all season long in the Gallagher Premiership, Premiership Rugby Cup and Challenge Cup on BT Sport. If you’re not yet a subscriber, find out how we can get you signed up in just 15 minutes.

Read on for BTSport.com's in-depth Wasps season preview, or check out more from our exclusive series:

Bath | Bristol Bears | Exeter Chiefs | Gloucester | Harlequins | London Irish | Leicester Tigers |  Northampton Saints | Saracens | Sale Sharks |  Worcester Warriors

Join now to watch Gallagher Premiership Rugby all season long on BT Sport

The story of last season

Wasps lost more games than they won for the first time since 2013/14 in a disappointing season which ended in an eighth-place finish in the Gallagher Premiership.

Dai Young’s side finished only five points outside a semi-final spot, but they failed to capitalise on their previous top flight campaign, which saw them finish in third with 71 points.

The Coventry-based side started the season encouragingly, winning four of their first five games in the league, with their only loss coming against last season’s beaten finalists Exeter Chiefs.

But they lost to Gloucester, Northampton Saints and Saracens in the first half of the season and failed to make their mark in Europe, losing five out of their six pool matches against Leinster, Toulouse and Bath.

They were on the receiving end of a 52-3 thumping by a rampant Leinster side at Dublin’s RDS Arena and also lost heavily to Toulouse in December – a result which ended Wasps’ hopes of reaching the knockout stage.

Their only points in the Champions Cup came courtesy of thrilling 35-35 draw against Bath at the Ricoh Arena in late October.

Wasps struggled to replicate their early season form in the second half of the season, but they did produce one of the biggest shocks of the season when they beat table-toppers Exeter at Sandy Park.

The hosts led 12-0 after half an hour through Jack Nowell and Nic White, but Willie Le Roux, De Jongh and Marcus Watson all crossed during a devastating eight-minute spell to put the visitors 21-12 in front at half-time

Wasps held on for a memorable win – their first ever at Sandy Park – but they couldn’t push on and secure a play-off spot and had to settle for an eighth-place finish in the Premiership table.

They suffered defeats to Saracens and Bath after the Exeter win and victory over Harlequins on the final day wasn’t enough to secure a Champions Cup spot for the 2019/20 season.

Hopes for this season

Wasps’ eighth-place finish was their worst finish since 2012/12, and Young has set his sights on returning to the top six this season.

Speaking ahead of the new season, the Welshman said: “I think every director of rugby would say the same thing, you know it’s not rocket science. I’ve said since I’ve been here that, even in the previous seasons when we’ve been at the top.

“My target has always been to be a top six team and consistently push for that top four. If we can get into that top four in the Premiership then we’ve had a good season.

“What we want to do as well is hopefully get to the latter stages of the competitions we play in. Whether that’s the Challenge Cup or the Premiership Cup we’re going to give it our best shot.”

After a summer overhaul, Wasps’ new-look squad will look to kick-start their charge towards the top six with a resounding victory over newly promoted London Irish on Sunday 20 October.

Rugby World Cup absentees

New arrival Matteo Minozzi is part of Italy’s World Cup squad while lock Joe Launchbury has joined up with Eddie Jones’ England.

Key man: Malakai Fekitoa

Tonga-born New Zealand centre Malakai Fekitoa is set to star for Wasps this season.

The 27-year-old, who has scored eight tries in 24 games for the All Blacks, joins from French Top 14 side Toulon after spending two seasons on southern France’s Mediterranean coast.

He will link up with fellow All Black Lima Sopoaga at the Ricoh Arena.

“Malakai is a world-class player with bags of talent,” said Young.

“He's proven at the top level and to bring someone of his calibre to Wasps is a massive coup.”

Speaking after his signing was announced, Fekitoa said: “Wasps are a team that play an exciting brand of rugby and are very ambitious.”

“Hopefully I can help them push forward and achieve silverware in the next few years.”

One to watch: Jack Willis

Combative back row Jack Willis had the world at his feet when he was selected for last summer’s England tour of South Africa.

But his hopes of representing England were dashed when he ruptured the ACL in his right knee in the 2018 Premiership Rugby semi-final between Wasps and Saracens on Allianz Park’s artificial surface.

However, he has put his injury hell behind him, proving his fitness in the Premiership Rugby Cup against Northampton and Sale and he’ll be looking to make up for lost time in the 2019/20 season.

Upcoming Premiership fixtures live on BT Sport

20/10/2019 -  Wasps v London Irish (2.30pm, BT Sport 1 HD and Ultimate)

26/10/2019 - Gloucester v Wasps (3pm kick off)

08/11/2019 - Sale Sharks v Wasps (7pm, BT Sport 1 HD)

27/12/2019 - Bristol Bears v Wasps (7.45pm kick off)

05/01/2020 - Wasps v Northampton Saints (3pm kick off)

Find out all of our games chosen for live coverage across the first eight rounds, with 22 matches being shown on TV before the end of 2019.

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