BETWEEN 2002 and 2009 London Wasps accumulated eight major trophies, including two Heineken Cups and four Premiership titles, and boasted legendary names such as Lawrence Dallaglio, Simon Shaw, Roy Howley and Josh Lewsey to name but a few. But this golden generation has withered away, with many journeying to foreign shores, such as Paul Sackey who has relocated to France and talented fly-half Danny Cipriani, who has been plying his trade in Australia with the Melbourne Rebels, and others retiring after illustrious careers. This huge player turnover has caused severe disruption within the Wasps ranks, culminating in a three-season drought without a trophy, and the club is currently based a mere nine points above relegation favourites, Newcastle. This disastrous season has not been helped by critical injuries to many key players including club captain Tom Rees and top try-scorer Christian Wade alongside a host of other players, and club stalwarts Joe Worsley and Dan Ward-Smith both being forced into retirement alongside Wasps new boy Steve Thompson due to serious injuries. The Wasps situation may appear bleak on the surface, but a revival is occurring at Adams Park.
New coach Dai Young has ushered in a new era of rugby for the Wycombe-based club, overseeing a plethora of new signings looking to add depth to this injury stricken team. New transfers have indeed been made out of necessity, however the quality of these players is astounding, considering the difficulty of obtaining high class players mid-season. The likes of Russian No 8, Victor Gresev and Nambian lock Heinz Koll, as well as a host of other signings add tremendous depth and international experience to an increasingly youthful Wasps side.
Further positive signs of a revival were recently announced when the club declared that former Wasps stars Tom Palmer and James Haskell would both return to the club next season. Young was ecstatic at the signing stating: “Bringing the kind of quality in that Tom and James will deliver demonstrates our desire to have a highly competitive squad next season that will see us, I hope, push forward very positively.” With only 2 players currently in the England Elite Player Squad, Joe Simpson and Rob Webber, the latter who will be at Bath next year, it is clear that this influx of first choice England players will only serve the club well in the upcoming seasons.
It has been near impossible for Young to implement a strategy of playing an expansive, flowing game utilising the abundance of pace in the Wasps backline, with an injury list as extensive as his. However, this season has seen a number of considerable success stories for the boys in black and gold. Young talents have truly emerged as fantastic prospects for both club and country with the likes of Christian Wade, Billy Vunipola and Elliot Daly all establishing themselves as first team players, presenting a bright future for the boys from North East London.
It is therefore evident that this season should be written off as a result of the transition that has occurred within the club. A new coach, coupled with an extensive list of departures and a crippling injury list to integral players has meant that Wasps will again end the season disappointed and trophyless. However, Wasps are likely to survive relegation, partly due to the dire state of affairs at Newcastle, but also due to the resilience and spirit Wasps have shown in recent games, as well as the investment club owner Steve Hayes has pumped into the team, resulting in a club that is simply too good for championship rugby next season. Wasps fans must look to the future, where the grass certainly appears much greener, hopefully resulting in the multitude of new signing linking up with new coach Dai Young as well as the huge depth of young talent at the club, ushering in a return to the heights of the Dallaglio era and finally seeing this iconic club getting its hands on silverware once more.
Wasps play Exeter Chiefs at Adams Park on Saturday 18 February, KO 3pm. Click here to get your tickets!Like Rugby World? Subscribe to the magazine for the latest comprehensive content.