Wasps boss Lee Blackett has issued the latest update on Jack Willis, explaining that further specialist advice is needed within the next fortnight before a full prognosis can be made about the damaged suffered by the England flanker during his country’s round two Guinness Six Nations win over Italy.
Willis played just six minutes as a replacement in last Saturday’s victory, scoring a try for England and then significantly injuring his knee when he was crocodile rolled at a breakdown by Italy’s Sebastian Negri.
There was a crumb of comfort voiced by Blackett in that the back row’s ACL is intact, but the Premiership club coach wasn’t in the mood to downplay the significance of a setback that is likely to keep Willis out of action until next season.
“He is going to see the specialist again in the next ten to 14 days but it is a pretty significant injury in terms of knee ligament and cartilage,” said Blackett at his weekly Wasps media conference on Tuesday.
“We will know a lot more when he sees that specialist when it just settled down in the next ten to 14 days and then timescale wise, the injury is associated with a pretty lengthy time out. I can’t tell you exactly how long out but it’s a significant injury.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 13, 2021
“When we know a lot more I will give a lot more detail on it, but at this moment of time the ACL is intact, it’s alright. There was some comfort, it was positive news that ACL hadn’t gone but I don’t think we can get away from how significant an injury this actually is. He is going to be out for a good chunk of time.”
It’s the second serious knee injury that the popular Wasps player Willis has suffered in his career but Blackett, who himself knows what it is like to be out of the game for an extended period as he missed a year of his own playing career with a broken leg, added: “I can’t tell you what happened in the game after Jack got injured. It was pretty gutting.
“Anyone who knows Jack knows what type of person is he is. He cares so passionately about what he does and how serious his last knee injury was, to fight his way through it to then see it (happen again)… he is tough as they come and to see the pain on his face you knew it was serious. Everyone was the same. I spoke to a couple of staff. It was a pretty dark place and even the next day (Sunday when Wasps played at Worcester), you could see players coming in pretty down about it.
“He is someone everyone has a close attachment with. Everyone in the end was pretty gutted. You see things on social media and see how other people have reacted who maybe don’t know Jack as well and it seems there were a lot of people like that at the weekend.
“I have only spoken to him a few times in text. You just feel when there is that many people messaging him to just let him settle. I spoke to Tom [his brother] as well about him this morning and he [Jack] is pretty down. Probably because when you have had a serious injury you know what is coming and you know what a big challenge it is. He will feel that at the moment but the one thing about Jack is he is an out-and-out professional and he will get back as quickly as anyone can get back. He is heavily motivated now.”
Wasps have been employing the services of a psychologist at their club since Blackett took over from Dai Young last year and the coach imagines Willis will be making regular use of that facility during his comeback. “One thing we have definitely found with these injuries, some times players are alright early on because it is a bit of a shock and it’s when the reality sets in so I’d expect that at some point. There will be plenty of highs and lows throughout the whole of this.”
Blackett also commented on the crocodile roll tackle which is currently legal, explaining it isn’t something Wasps themselves coach their players to do. “We would never coach the crocodile roll, it’s not something we would coach. I’m not saying our players don’t do it. Sometimes they do it instinctively but that is 100 per cent, we would never coach it. We’d used more levers to remove the threat.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 14, 2021
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