By Rugby World reader, Mark Shanahan
And so to the business end of the season. For my club, Wasps, the next few weeks will make all the difference between smiling faces on and off the field, and a massive sense of under achievement. A disappointing defeat at imploding Sale and a more predictable reversal last weekend at Northampton have made Wasps outsiders for a top four finish in the Premiership. The fightback has to start against London Irish this coming Sunday, and the way the Exiles pulverised Sale yesterday gives me significant cause for worry. Irish racked up a bonus point win and appeared to be scoring points for fun, whereas Wasps have struggled to cross the whitewash far too often this season. The side lacks a cutting edge, and while there have been moments of brilliance from the likes of Varndell and Lemi, this has been a campaign based on perspiration rather than inspiration.
Lumping cliché on cliché, every game in April for Wasps is of cup final importance. Failure to win against Irish will make the play-offs the most outside of bets, and therefore the priority will be securing a top six place. Worcester Warriors will be fighting for their lives when the Black and Gold head for Sixways on April 17th – a ground where Wasps have fallen flat in the past. In fact one of the worst games I’ve ever sat through was a 3-3 draw at Worcester a couple of years ago – dire from beginning to end. A week after that, Wasps head for Twickenham for the St. George’s Day (plus one) fixture against Bath. While Wasps are meandering to the end of the season, the West Country hip flask brigade have hit a rich vein of form at a great time……a bit like the normal Wasps trajectory through a season. Although the penultimate league fixture of the season, it will have the intensity and likely impact of a Play Off match. For the winners, the near certainty of Heineken rugby next season. For the losers, another season of mediocrity.
Given the added dimension of a match played in support of our armed forces, I hope people turn out in great numbers. Wasps’ support has rather stagnated in the last two years and it would be good to re-energise the faithful and sell a few more season tickets for the next campaign.
Finally, sandwiched between Irish and Worcester, there’s the Amlin QF against Gloucester. I struggle to raise enthusiasm for the Heineken’s little brother, but it may well be Wasps’ best route to silverware this year. Gloucester are as much of a curate’s egg as Wasps in 2010. So while the match may be a bit of a sideshow, it’s bound to be entertaining.