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'He's someone everyone keeps an eye on': Wasps address Wade rumour

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Stephen White/CameraSport via Getty Images)

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Lee Blackett has played down speculation that ex-England and Wasps winger Christian Wade is on the verge of a return to rugby following a number of seasons in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills. The soon-to-be 31-year-old is currently back in England and tweeted on May 5: “Another good week in the bag but what’s the next move though??

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This message sparked conjecture that Wade – the all-time fourth-highest Gallagher Premiership try-scorer – was possibly in line to make a comeback in rugby following his April 1 release from the Bills where he was troubled by a shoulder injury last year.  

It was 2019 when the rookie running back was allocated to Buffalo via the league’s international pathway programme and while he didn’t get a chance to play in a regular-season NFL game, he generated headlines when he scored a 65-yard touchdown in a pre-season outing during his first year at the American club.   

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The Breakdown | Sky Sport NZ | Episode 12
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Wade had scored 82 Premiership tries when he exited Wasps, a number that is now 13 behind the new record of 95 that Chris Ashton secured last month when playing for Leicester, a club that has been linked to the NFL rookie. 

Blackett, though, wasn’t so sure that Wade is coming back to rugby, although he suggested he would find it easier to transition back into the game than some other rugby players who previously tried out NFL.

“I love Wadey. He is a great character, a great finisher. But in terms of coming back to Wasps, or coming back to rugby union, I have not heard anything,” said Blackett when asked by the Coventry Telegraph about Wade’s situation at the club’s weekly media briefing on Tuesday afternoon ahead of Saturday’s Challenge Cup semi-final away to Lyon.  

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The director of rugby was later asked by RubgyPass what were his thoughts about Wade when it emerged in 2018 that was he leaving Wasps to try out a very different sport on the other side of the Atlantic?

“From a Wasps perspective, pretty gutted (when he left) because of the quality player he is, quality of person he is. He is one of these guys that when you saw him every day, no matter what he did, he always made you smile. A great character to have around. 

“That would be the first reaction but how many people get the opportunity to something like that, to go to a different sport? When you just took that emotional side out of it and took a step back, it would make you quite jealous about the opportunity he had to go and try something like that on the other side of the world and fair play to him, there was a feeling of good luck and hope it goes well.”

Has Blackett followed the progress of Wade since then from afar? “Always. There are still people here who know Wadey really well. You still hear all the stories and you still hear what people are saying. Only the other day there were a lot of people talking about him in here. Look, he is someone everyone keeps an eye on.”

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If ex-Wasps star Wade did return to rugby somewhere, what might that transition be like coming back from NFL? “There have been a few people who have tried and come back,” suggested Blackett. 

“Alex Gray, Christian (Scotland-Williamson) down at Harlequins. There has been a couple of guys that have tried it and come back. It is always going to take a while for them to step back into the game and it always depends on what position. Those guys were returning to be forwards it takes a little bit longer than someone coming in on the wing.” 

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