'A lot of players went through a slump': Why Wasps are 28 points worse off than last term
It’s been a cruel few months for Wasps, the buzz of last October’s Gallagher Premiership final appearance replaced by the frustrating downturn that has them involved in a pair of eighth-place finals over the next two weekends, starting this Saturday at London Irish and wrapping up next week with a home derby versus Leicester.
Their season wasn’t supposed to turn out like this, a messy squabble over a minor placing to ensure they qualify for next season’s Heineken Champions Cup. But hard luck and annoyance have been the story of a campaign where they have managed just eight wins and 43 points, leaving them 33 points behind leaders Bristol after 20 rounds.
That is a stark reduction from last term’s 14 wins and the giddy total of 71 points that was good enough for a second-place finish, just three points behind the eventual champions Exeter. What gives?
Boss Lee Blackett knows his Wasps must finish out their deflating Premiership campaign – his first full season in charge after succeeding Dai Young in February 2020 – as best they can over the next two Saturdays, a task that is foremost on his mind, but he also knows the extent of the groundwork that much go in to ensure the misfortunes of 2020/21 aren’t repeated in 2021/22. A rest and a pre-season simply can’t come quick enough for them.
“Last year we won twelve out of 13 on the bounce to get to the final and when are able to put our best team that is where we are,” explained Blackett when asked by RugbyPass what he will be reflecting on most when the final whistle is blown on Wasps’ Premiership season on June 12, a misadventure where Jack Willis, Joe Launchbury and now Paolo Odogwu have all wound up seriously injured.
"You’ll find that guys that come in this quickly sometimes pick up knocks and Charlie is pretty resilient in that way"
– Nine months after getting mown down by the red-carded Owen Farrell, 19-year-old Charlie Atkinson is earning kudos at Wasps https://t.co/8a3EMjXKjo
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) June 2, 2021
“We started this season without our internationals, we won one out of three and then we had five games on the bounce with our internationals back and we went and won all five. Then it came to the Six Nations and we went through a rocky period again, winning two out of eight, and then recently the form seems to have carried on, losing touch with the top four and losing quite a few games at the death.
“One thing I would say is just making sure of our strength in depth, we keep working on our squad guys as much as possible and looking at some of the internationals and trying to strengthen those areas as well (whey they are away). It’s why we have gone and got (Francois) Hougaard to give us a little experience in our half-backs, especially if Dan (Robson) goes away.
“When Joe (Launchbury) goes away in the second row we have gone and got Elliott Stooke but we want another second row. And in the back row, we are still looking. Hopefully, we are getting pretty close to sorting a deal out for a back row for when Jack (Willis) goes away or is missing with injury.
“It’s really just making sure of our strength in depth and we are working hard on the guys underneath our frontline players. To be fair that was a massive strength for us going to the final. Some of our squad guys came through, some of our younger guys came through, but a lot of players just went through a bit of a slump and a lot of them are hopefully coming out the other end.
“There are a lot of players needing a break at the moment. They have played a lot of rugby, and a lot of rugby for the first time as well, playing first-team rugby for the full 12 months for the first-ever time. It can take its toll.
“What we need at this moment of time is a good break at the end of this season, a refresh, and we’re going into a new training ground as well. We had no time off after getting to the final, a couple of weeks with five sessions before we played Bristol in the first game, we had no pre-season.
“Having that ability to have that pre-season, as we did after lockdown, will hopefully kick us into gear straight away and we are in need of a pre-season as well. There are a lot of tired bodies out there at the moment. But look, as much as I want to talk about holidays and about the off-season and pre-season, we can’t get away from this weekend. Everyone at the club wants to be coming back to a team that is playing in Europe.”
"I've had conversations with the referee a couple of times. I spoke to Spreaders as well… I was really frustrated after the game"
– Lee Blackett has revisited post-game comments and also addressed the Gloucester-Bath cancellation that has hurt Wasps https://t.co/gwuXC3T02x
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) June 1, 2021
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