Leicester head coach Matt O’Connor admits to being surprised by Wasps’ progress.

The two sides face each other in the Aviva Premiership semi-finals at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday evening in what will be the Tigers’ 13th consecutive year in the last four.

It is a record O’Connor helped build as a coach and then head coach during his previous spell with the Tigers, which included leading Leicester to the Premiership title in 2013 before he left for Leinster.

Wasps finished eighth that year, but while O’Connor was away the Coventry-based side steadily made progress, improving their finishing position each season before topping the Premiership this campaign.

O’Connor, who returned as Leicester boss in March, said: ”Wasps (surprised me in my absence) and, to a lesser extent, Exeter, who of course are in the other semi-final. Exeter were on a pretty steep improvement curve when I was here last so to see where they’ve gone isn’t that surprising to me.

“But Wasps were almost on the canvas when I left four years ago. To be now in the knockout stages of Europe and top of the Premiership is a bit surprising. But (director of rugby) Dai (Young) has done a fantastic job and the move to Coventry was inspirational.

“They are right up there now as a big hitter. You don’t end up top of the league by chance. They are very dangerous and have world-class players across the back line, incredibly good athletes, and guys that can score from anywhere and a really abrasive forward pack.”

JP Pietersen will be assessed before Leicester's clash with Wasps (Scott Heavey/PA)
JP Pietersen will be assessed before Leicester’s clash with Wasps (Scott Heavey/PA)

He added: “Wasps are the best side in the competition and have proved that over the 22 rounds and were the form side throughout the competition.

“However, we’ve demonstrated over the past month that we are capable of pushing anyone and it’ll be really interesting to see what happens on Saturday.”

Telusa Veainu is set to return to the squad but fellow wing JP Pietersen will need to be assessed.