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'Forget Jacob, this is just normal young kids': The Wasps view on Umaga's challenging second season

By Liam Heagney

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Lee Blackett has given a vote of approval for the determined fashion in which young Jacob Umaga has recovered from a winter dip in form to remind everyone why he is still the first-choice Wasps No10. The 22-year-old thrived in his breakthrough 2019/20 season.

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He earned call-ups to England training under Eddie Jones in between helping Wasps to reach the Gallagher Premiership final. However, opposition teams seem to have become more adept in Umaga’s second season about working out the threats that he poses.

Having been omitted from the England scene for the 2021 Guinness Six Nations, Umaga went on to start three consecutive league matches for Wasps from the bench in February before getting back in at No10. 

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Other games were subsequently missed when he was deemed close contact of a Covid case at his club, but he returned again as the starting out-half for the Heineken Champions Cup round of 16 game versus Clermont on April 3 and came within a converted 84th-minute try of being on the winning side. 

That effort typified Umaga’s resilience as within the contest it was his loose first-half clearance kick and missed tackle that gave Clermont one of their tries, but he went on to ensure Wasps were in a winning position right until the very end. 

Wasps now head to Exeter this Saturday for a repeat of last October’s Premiership final fixture and coach Blackett reckons his team are going there with a rejuvenated young out-half on their hands. “Forget Jacob, this is just normal young kids,” he suggested when asked to reflect on his players teething problems this term.

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“You see them, they go this quickly and all of a sudden a lot of things are going their way. Whenever you are coming up against teams you know the individuals but when you are coming against younger guys, sometimes you don’t quite know what to make of them. 

“Then people start figuring them out, they start talking about them and then they start seeing if there are any weaknesses in their game and they start targeting certain areas. This is (for) all youngsters and all of a sudden they get hit with a challenge. 

“A lot of these young guys come in, do really well quickly and then they have got to fight their way through these challenges that are coming their way – and I have seen that with Jacob, I have seen him fighting through against Clermont. 

“I’m just seeing a guy that has got a lot more confidence back and definitely when Jacob plays well we play well. That is a big thing, I have seen an air of confidence. He is training better, he looks better and he is fighting the way through those challenges at the moment.”

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'Forget Jacob, this is just normal young kids': The Wasps view on Umaga's challenging second season

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