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'I wasn't talking about the Biggar incident...': Wasps boss Blackett clarifies criticism

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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Frustrated Wasps boss Lee Blackett has revisited last Saturday’s criticism of Adam Leal and what he felt was a lack of assistance for the inexperienced referee from the officials around him, namely seasoned TMO Graham Hughes who was also on duty for the 30-25 home Gallagher Premiership win by Northampton. 

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Last year’s beaten finalists have been dragged into an excruciating battle to try and qualify for next season’s Heineken Champions Cup, a task made all the more difficult by the news that next weekend’s Gloucester versus Bath match has been cancelled due to a virus outbreak.

With Bath poised to receive four match points from the called off game and Gloucester two, the state of play will have troubling change for Wasps who were in eighth on the table after last weekend’s losing bonus point, the cut-off point for Champions Cup qualification.   

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That points split would lift Bath from ninth into seventh on 47 points, push London Irish down to eighth on 44 points and leave Wasps tied in ninth spot with Gloucester on 43 points, hugely increasing the stakes surrounding next Saturday’s visit by Blackett’s side to the Brentford-based Exiles ahead of their campaign-ending June 12 home game versus mid-table Leicester.  

“There is no second chance,” reckoned Blackett even though Wasps have two games remaining in their season. “We have got to win if we want to be in the top eight. You have the news breaking at the moment about the Bath and Gloucester game. 

“That puts Bath above us and drops us into ninth before the (Irish) game… if we don’t win at the weekend you will find yourself out of it. At this moment in time, destiny is still in our own hands about making that top eight and Europe, but I don’t think you are going to get two opportunities at that. This weekend we are treating it as our final,” he said.

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“That’s exactly how we are treating it. If we want to be playing in Europe we have to win this game at the weekend, there is no second chance. This is not the final we want to be involved in, fighting for a European spot at the end of the season, but it has got a little bit of extra spice in it.”

Reverting to what controversially unfolded at Franklin’s Gardens last weekend, Blackett explained that he had since been in touch on a few occasions with rookie referee Leal, who was only in charge of his eleventh-ever Premiership match, and Premiership referees boss Tony Spreadbury to try and assuage the irritation he initially touched on in his post-match Wasps media briefing. 

“We have put it behind us. I have had conversations with the referee, I have spoken to him a couple of times since the game. It’s not (just) for himself, it’s for our understanding as well. I spoke to Tony as well. Look, I was really frustrated after the game. It’s a difficult one, we just felt a lot of the decisions went against us. Any 50/50 seemed to go against us,” continued Blackett, who the previous week warned about what he felt was an increase in the Premiership in high tackled players over-reacting to get tacklers carded.    

“One thing we will always do, and we spoke about it today [Tuesday] with the players, we are not looking to make excuses. I’m not looking to make excuses. The referee didn’t make us drop the ball. The referee didn’t make us run into touch. Even with the majority of the decisions all going against us we got down into the 22 15 times and a lot of things went against us. 

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“I don’t want to reflect on the last ten minutes. When I was talking after the game I wasn’t talking about any individual aspect. I wasn’t talking about the (Dan) Biggar incident, I wasn’t talking about the slap-down for the try. I felt there was a lot of decisions that were incorrect, probably went against us, and the worst thing about it, I felt for the referee. 

“I felt he could have got a little more help, especially TMO who let him down a bit at the weekend. Referees are just like players, they make mistakes… I don’t mind people making mistakes, we all make mistakes – we’re humans. But when you have got a TV and you can review it a few more times it’s a little bit harder for me to take.”

Asked to elaborate on the specifics of his conversations with Leal as Wasps boss, Blackett said: “There would be some things [decisions] that are debatable and then there will be others where they will say, ‘Yeah, we got that wrong’ and that is where we were. We spoke about several clips, several parts of the game. 

“I must admit, Adam has masses of potential. I have seen him a couple of times now, he has got bucketloads of potential. Tony put a team that was experienced around him and if his team had just helped him out on a couple of occasions he would have walked away with a good performance as a referee. 

“I don’t think he would have a ridiculous amount wrong. There were a few little things but that is always going to happen and that’s it, the team could have helped him around him a little bit better. The problem when you debate about officials like this is it sounds like you are making excuses, I’m not making excuses about how we performed. There was a lot of positive stuff from us but there were things we can work on to get better. I expect our execution to be better than it was at times – and that is not the referee’s fault.”

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'I wasn't talking about the Biggar incident...': Wasps boss Blackett clarifies criticism

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