High-flying Wasps boss Lee Blackett has given Malakai Fekitoa the licence to keep on delivering big Gallagher Premiership hits even though the New Zealander was miss Friday night’s home clash with Worcester following the receipt of a one-match ban.
The former All Blacks midfielder had to attend a virtual disciplinary hearing after his borderline high collision with Saints’ Fraser Dingwall last Sunday became his third foul play yellow card of the 2019/20 Premiership season.
Fekitoa was previously yellow carded in both of Wasps’ outings versus Gloucester – initially for a clear-out last October and next for an off-the-ball tackle in March.
Fekitoa’s first-half yellow card at Franklin’s Gardens last weekend was the second robust collision of his latest match – the first was deemed inspiringly legal – and with Wasps currently on a four-match winning run that has taken them into play-off contention, Blackett has sung the praises of the physicality his midfielder brings to the Coventry-based team.
“I thought Malakai, his first tackle galvanised us,” said Blackett. “People like that have a big influence on everyone.
“It’s very odd for me personally because I don’t ever feel like I was a rugby player"
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“Obviously we are not going to encourage everyone tackling high, just if you can lower it by probably a finger’s width it would have been alright at the weekend. It was obviously just the right arm came up at the last minute, so it wasn’t a million miles. But Malachi gives us something we probably have not had in our backline in recent years. He gives us that big physical edge and we don’t want to tweak him too much.
“We need that (physicality). That is what is the best thing for the team so look. We need him to stay (on the pitch) – we need obviously all our players on the field. I don’t see him being overly dirty, he just got that one slightly wrong.”
It was last January when Dai Young, Blackett’s predecessor at Wasps who departed the following month, warned that Fekitoa was nicely coming to the boil following initial teething difficulties after his move from Toulon. “He gives us something we don’t have in the rest of our backline because we have a lot of nice players but lack that physicality,” said Young.
“Malakai has given us that and in the last two or three games he has come up with some monstrous tackles which gets everyone up. With his ball carries he never fails to beat the first guy which puts you on the front foot and opens up space for others to exploit.”
He's no household name but the story of @AlexRieder1 is a compelling insight into hardships inflicted by the sport: shattered limbs, dependence on painkillers and an onerous mental health battle that preyed on vulnerabilities
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) July 19, 2020
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