Dai Young is adamant his relationship with Willie le Roux has not been affected by the Springbok fullback’s international renaissance that removed him from the Premiership club’s squad as they dealt with a run of injuries that hit Joe Launchbury, Brad Shields and Lima Sopoaga.
Le Roux has enjoyed a remarkable return to Springbok colours playing in all six Rugby Championship matches and collecting his 50th cap in Saturday’s 32-30 last gasp loss to New Zealand. He did return to play for club against Sale during the Championship but what was initially expected to be a three game absence was dramatically changed by his superb form for his country.
The fullback will return to the club from South Africa tomorrow but needs to pass head injury protocols to take his place in the Wasps team for their opening Heineken Champions Cup clash against holders Leinster in Dublin on Friday night. Young is confident that Le Roux, who was taken off in All Blacks game, did not suffer a concussion and will be able to pass the tests to reclaim the Wasps No.15 jersey.
Le Roux was in test exile when he signed for Wasps but a change of coach brought in Rassie Erasmus and Young supported the full back’s bid to win back his test place a year out from the World Cup in Japan. However, it robbed Wasps of one of their key attacking weapons and as the injuries mounted, Young saw his men lose to Gloucester, highlighting the need for le Roux’s return.
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Young revealed Le Roux could be offered another one year contract but needs to start negotiations with the player and admitted the full back’s lengthy absence was a problem he had not expected to deal with.
Young said: “This could be Willie’s last season with Wasps but there is an option for another year and we will have a sit-down and talk about what he wants to do after the World Cup in Japan.
“I want to make it clear that no one broke any trust or created any animosity. We didn’t know how many games he was going to play and the situation was something we had not planned for.
“Rassie wasn’t going to be ringing me up and saying “this is my team for next week” and why should he, which meant there was an unknown factor and Willie didn’t know if he would be involved for two, four or six games.
“We had no real direct contact with South Africa and it was through the player. The reality of it is that Willie thought his international career was over but there was a change of regime and Rassie made it clear he wanted him back in. That was something we hadn’t accounted for because we didn’t expect him to be playing in the Rugby Championship or involved in the November tour by the Springboks.
“There hasn’t been a break down between Wasps, the player or South Africa and there isn’t any bad feeling. But, it would be wrong for me to say we expected him to be involved in those internationals. However, these things happen in international sport and my relationship with Willie is good and I would never do anything to stop anyone taking part in international rugby.
“He wanted to come back for the Sale game because he has enjoyed his time with Wasps but then went back to play against the All Blacks – who wouldn’t want to do that? There is no animosity and if I was vague with my answers about the situation in recent weeks it was because I wasn’t sure if Willie was going to be picked. I am anticipating – although I haven’t heard anything – that Willie will be involved with the November tour and then he comes backs to Wasps.”
Young is hoping the skills of All Black No10 Lima Sopoaga, who missed the Gloucester defeat, allied to le Roux’s return can guide his team through a difficult Champions Cup pool and said: “Lima’s game will be studied by the opposition and we have tinkered with our attack because he gives us something different. He has had a really good start and showed some great touches. He is going under the radar a little bit and he is going to grown in stature leading our attack.
“I don’t think we can take anymore injuries and seriously think we can knock over teams like Leinster, Bath and Toulouse. As long we don’t pick anymore up I am confident we can give a really good account of ourselves. I am happy to back us against anybody at home and you have to get something away from home. Last year we had a really poor 20 minutes against Harlequins put us out of the competition.
“This is probably the toughest pool we have had and so it will be hard but we have enough ammunition to get through.”
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