Although Wasps surpassed many people’s expectations battling through to the quarter finals of the Champions Cup, last season will primarily be remembered for their controversial but understandable move to Coventry. This will enable them to generate more income and have therefore invested heavily in increasing the talent of the playing squad.
Season Preview: 2015-16 Wasps
• Jimmy Gopperth (Fly half, Leinster)
• Dan Robson (Scrum half, Gloucester Rugby)
• Frank Halai (Wing, Blues)
• Brendan Macken (Centre, Leinster)
• Tom Bristow (Prop, Leicester Tigers)
• Jamie Stevenson (Scrum Half, London Scottish)
• James Downey (Centre, Glasgow Warriors)
• George Smith (Flanker, Lyon)
• James Johnston (Prop, Saracens)
• Alex Rieder (Flanker, Rotherham Titans)
• Alex Lundberg (Prop, promoted from Academy)
• Tom Howe (Wing, promoted from Academy)
• Charles Piutau (Wing, Blues)
Wasps have signed an abundance of talent which, combined with the existing nucleus of the side, could see them reenter the top 4 after a number of years absence. Jimmy Gopperth’s calm game management is almost a direct replacement for Andy Goode and he should complement the two exciting All Black wingers: Frank Halai and Charles Piutau. Along with Christian Wade, they will arguably give Wasps the most lethal back three in the Premiership. Meanwhile, in the forwards Wasps have recruited George Smith and James Johnston. The 111 cap Wallaby will add considerable experience whilst Johnston will anchor their scrum, as he did 51 times for Saracens in just two seasons.
• Tom Varndell (Wing, Bristol Rugby)
• William Helu (Centre, Edinburgh Rugby)
• Ed Jackson (Flanker, Newport Gwent Dragons)
• Charlie Davies (Scrum half, Newport Gwent Dragons)
• Tom Lindsay (Hooker, Gloucester Rugby)
• Will Taylor (Prop, Scarlets)
• Jack Moates (Scrum half, Jersey)
• Oli Evans (Centre, Jersey)
• Tom Bliss (Scrum half, Ealing Trailfinders) (season-loan)
• Sam James (Hooker, Bedford Blues)
• Martyn Thomas (Full back, London Welsh)
• Gus Jones (Flanker, London Welsh)
• Glyn Hughes (Fly half, Moseley)
• Buster Lawrence (Lock, Moseley)
• John Yapp (Prop, retired)
• Chris Bell (Centre, retired)
• Andy Goode (Fly half, retired)
There are 17 players leaving Wasps; a substantial change in personnel. Two of the local favourites- Chris Bell and Andy Goode- have both retired whilst promising young scrum half Charlie Davis has joined Newport Gwent Dragons.
Hopes and Fears for next season
It is entirely possible that Wasps will finish in the top four this season and pick up some notable victories on the way. On the other hand, in Europe they have been drawn in perhaps the hardest pool ever with Toulon, Leinster and Bath and so they aren’t expected to qualify. A failure to qualify for the Champions Cup next season would be deemed an unsuccessful season for Wasps.
Joe Launchbury was out injured for the majority of last season but his admirable work rate, breakdown skills and lineout nous will be essential to Wasps should they continue their dramatic improvement.
Unless the new squad takes too long to gel, Wasps may once again reach the upper heights of the table.