Last season would have been regarded as a disappointing season by Wasps’s standards in recent years. They finished eighth in the Premiership, just missing Heineken Champions Cup Rugby playoffs. This was a disappointment but Director of Rugby Dai Young believes they have a better foundation this season.
Wasps had to compete with a number of injuries last season as well as the loss of Christian Wade. International duty also claimed a number of players with the likes of Brad Shields, Dan Robson and Elliot Daly absent with England.
Will there be a World Cup hangover for Wasps?
With only Joe Launchbury and Matteo Minozzi absent for the start of the Premiership season on Rugby World Cup duty, Wasps have the potential to make a strong start. Young is aware of the challenge he faces to get Wasps back in contention. He said:
“What we need is strength in depth right across the board. You don’t achieve anything with a poor squad.
“If you’ve only got twenty-three players then you’re going to come unstuck.”
The Welshman spoke after his side’s 39-6 Premiership Rugby Cup victory over Worcester Warriors. Wasps fielded a strong side including the debut of former All Black Malakai Fekitoa.
“This game pretty much wouldn’t be too far away from the 23,” Young told media. “There’s a couple of guys like your Lima’s and your Malakai’s that we would have preferred to have a hit out with last week but it was too early for them.”
“We’re comfortable now, It’s probably only James Gaskell that hasn’t played that would probably be available for selection for the opening game [this weekend].” Said Young.
It is not only the first team regulars that have impressed in pre-season but a number of the academy products. The likes of Owain James and Jacob Umaga have impressed supporters and Young himself. “It’s nice to see some of the younger guys who have stood up and look like more than a match and more than capable of playing week in week out.”
“We do feel we have grown as a squad and very together as a squad, and we think we’ve improved every game.”
The rescheduling of the Premiership Rugby Cup has its own fans
Young praised the scheduling of this year’s Premiership Rugby Cup, saying, “Putting it at the front end I think has been a real positive. With player welfare, there’s a certain amount of time that players need.
“Everybody gets five weeks off, and they come back and it’s only fair they get an adequate pre-season to help them not get injuries and make sure they’re in tip-top condition.
“If the first couple of weeks is Premiership Cup I think that’s a real good thing. If they kick it back and make pre-season shorter I think it’s going to put people under pressure.” Said Young.
Wasps struggled with their strength in depth last season, being unable to constantly field a side that could compete week-in-week-out. This meant academy prospects had more game time than Young would have preferred. However, Wasps look to have blooded players who have the ability to compete and can stand in at Premiership level.
The Coventry-based side has not over-recruited for this season. They have splashed the cash on players that have been regularly selected for international rugby. The depth in the back three is a great example of their recruitment. Wasps has invested in young wingers with high potential in the form of Zach Kibirige (see main photo) and Paolo Odogwu.
2017 #HK10s player with @SamuraiRugby Paolo Odogwu set to return to his hometown of Coventry after signing with @WaspsRugby. 👏
Full story: https://t.co/aArBoyQPla pic.twitter.com/UVrrP1jBP7
— GFI HKFC 10s (@GFIHKFC10s) June 10, 2019
Wasps have shown glimpses of the quality they can produce in their Premiership Cup games. They definitely look like they have the ability to compete at the top of the table.
Wasps opened their 2019/20 Premiership Rugby campaign this weekend against London Irish.
“Main image credit”
Embed from Getty Images