15 for 10: Wasps - an all-decade XV
The penultimate 15 for 10 takes us to the West Midlands, where it’s been a tumultuous decade for Wasps, who have avoided relegation and administration, found a new home and more recently struggled after an initial surge up the table following their departure from High Wycombe.
The club formerly known as London Wasps have begun putting down roots in Coventry, with confirmation of a new state of the art training facility to be built, and a number of their stalwarts from their days in the home counties have since parted ways with the club.
It’s a decade that has marked a new era for the club, although plenty of the players who made the cut below shone during the team’s days in High Wycombe. Read on for the XV and let us know who you think we missed.
- Willie le Roux
Perhaps the most talent-rich position for Wasps over the last decade, with Charles Piutau and Kurtley Beale having enjoyed short spells at the club, the final couple of years of club legend Mark van Gisbergen, as well as Hugo Southwell and Rob Miller all on the books at one point or another. That said, le Roux revitalised his career in Coventry, having previously struggled at the Sharks after he left the Cheetahs. His platform for Rugby World Cup success was rebuilt in the West Midlands.
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- Christian Wade
The 28-year-old was agonisingly close to breaking the all-time Premiership try record before he left to try his luck in the NFL, with his mark of 82 just 10 shy of Tom Varndell’s 92. With the time Wade still had left on his side, there was very little doubt he would have comfortably exceeded the mark. Even in poorer Wasps sides, Wade was still a threat to score from anywhere on the pitch and he was unlucky not to have made more of a mark in the international arena.
- Elliot Daly
A mention for the versatile Andrea Masi, who made his presence felt in a number of positions for the club, although none would likely dispute Daly’s ownership of this jersey. The England international repeatedly excelled for Wasps at outside centre and his searing pace and cannon of a boot proved vital in plenty of Wasps wins over the past decade.
- Jimmy Gopperth
The Kiwi has arguably never looked better than when he was playing at inside centre outside of Danny Cipriani. The dual-playmaker axis worked exceptionally well for Wasps and it is no coincidence that the team’s recent struggles have happened whilst Gopperth has been sidelined by injury.
- Tom Varndell
A nod to Josh Bassett, who has been very consistent for the club at a time when they have endured fairly significant season-on-season departures in the back three, although Varndell was the difference between the club staying in the Premiership and being relegated and likely going into administration. In addition to that excellent individual season, Varndell was also a dangerous attacking threat whenever he took to the pitch.
- Danny Cipriani
Welsh fly-halves Stephen Jones and Nicky Robinson had their moments at Wasps, although it was during Cipriani’s second spell with the club that they looked closest to rediscovering their title-winning ways. It didn’t quite happen for the club, although Cipriani did push himself back into England contention, even if it was only for one summer tour of South Africa.
- Joe Simpson
A tough call, with Dan Robson having excelled since moving to the club, although it was the longevity and consistency of Simpson’s service over the entire decade that swung this in his favour. Schooled in Ealing, Simpson was one of the club’s last links to their former London roots, with the scrum-half, Daly and Wade having all left the club this year. His electric ability is still being used to very good effect by Gloucester.
- Matt Mullan
An astute signing back in 2013, Mullan went on to represent Wasps over 100 times and was talked up as an England option for much of his early years at the club. He was only denied regular opportunities by England’s strength at the position, although his form for Wasps was strong enough to edge him ahead of another club stalwart, Simon McIntyre.
- Rob Webber
The peak of Webber’s career arguably came in the last couple of years he spent at Wasps, something which was enough to catch Bath’s eye and earn him a lucrative move west. Tommy Taylor has been plagued by injury problems since he moved from Sale, which seals this spot for Webber, who was pushing hard for England caps earlier in the decade.
- Lorenzo Cittadini
There has been a lot of player movement at tighthead for Wasps over the past 10 years and a number of players, such as Kieran Brookes and Marty Moore might also have valid claims on this spot. That said, Cittadini did well in a team that wasn’t built around the strength of its scrum and helped stabilise a unit that was often put under pressure by opponents.
- Joe Launchbury
An honourable mention for the last year and a half of Simon Shaw’s time at the club, although the torch was placed in safe hands with the arrival of Launchbury. The lock has gone on to captain the club and has been the one player to commit his long-term future to the club, with the dust having settled on the move to Coventry. He represents the past and the future of the team and there have been few more dedicated servants to Wasps.
- James Gaskell
Gaskell sees off the challenge of Marco Wentzel thanks to the longevity of his service since arriving from Sale in 2014. His mobility and lineout ability suited the club’s high-tempo style of play during their 2016-18 peak. He has impressed alongside Launchbury and provided stability as Wasps’ turnover of players has risen.
- Ashley Johnson
This position could have ended up with Sam Jones, had injury not sadly curtailed his promising career. That said, Johnson has been an exemplary signing for Wasps since arriving from the Cheetahs. He was pivotal in helping Wasps through their battle against relegation in High Wycombe, before providing an important ball-carrying spark as they consolidated in Coventry and attempted to push up the Premiership table.
- Thomas Young
If one position stacks up with full-back at Wasps, it’s openside flanker, where Serge Betsen, Jack Willis and George Smith have all plied their trade, as well as the final season or two of Tom Rees’ injury-ravaged career. James Haskell is arguably the most unlucky to miss out, with the veteran having buoyed Wasps in his second stint with the club, but Young has been a revelation for the Coventry-based outfit and has only been denied more opportunities with Wales due to quality of that nation’s openside options.
- Nathan Hughes
Hughes peaked in Wasps’ rapid rise up the table in the 2015/16 season and over the following couple of seasons, he would make himself integral to the club’s style of play. He may not have had the same impact in international rugby, although Bristol Bears’ massive contract to him in the summer is confirmation of the talent and game-breaking ability that he has.
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