Wasps are on the ropes with a squad that is down to the bare bones and the schedulers have hit them with a low blow ahead of the Champions Cup kick-off.
The men from Coventry have now lost four in a row in the Premiership and director of rugby Dai Young had 15 first team squad members out injured this weekend. Not an ideal backdrop for them as they head into Europe and those in charge of scheduling have kicked them while they’re down as well.
It’s ludicrous to play Saracens away on Sunday in a big Premiership clash and then your first European game away at Ulster the following Friday. I don’t agree with five-day turnarounds at all. It’s not as if one of them is an Anglo Welsh Cup game and you’re putting the kids out.
The powers that be that are overseeing the scheduling of these fixtures need to take a look at themselves. Going into Europe, there should be an absolute minimum of six days’ preparation for everyone.
Monday will be a recovery day, players will still be recovering on Tuesday, you can train normally on Wednesday but then you have to travel and can only have a light team run, so conceivably Wasps only have one proper day of training to prepare for a big European game.
When you take into consideration how affected they are by injuries at the moment as well, it’s a ludicrous situation to be in. Ulster beat Connacht at home on Friday night, so they’ve had an extra two days of preparation for this weekend’s match compared to Wasps. It beggars belief really.
The club won’t complain about it too much and Dai isn’t the type to look for excuses but it’s a situation that absolutely shouldn’t happen in this day and age.
I actually thought they fronted up pretty well against Saracens. If you take away the two soft tries they conceded early on in the game, it would have been a narrow defeat away at the European champions with a severely depleted squad.
I was impressed with how much grit and determination they had in the face of adversity and how the young guys like Jack Willis and Marcus Garratt performed. They’ll really benefit from the experience.
However, they lost the gainline battle, admittedly against the most physical defence in the Premiership, but they’ll be disappointed with that. Their set piece was also an issue and they got absolutely destroyed in the scrum at times in the second half, which will hurt Dai Young personally as well as the players.
A change of competition will be good for them this week but it doesn’t get any easier with a trip to Ulster up next.
When I was at Wasps a couple of years ago we lost our opening two games and then won four on the spin to qualify for the quarter-finals but we were the first team to do that.
It isn’t impossible to get out of your pool if you lose your first two games but it doesn’t happen very often, so they need to pick up a win in the next couple of weeks.
From Wasps’ point of view, a losing bonus point at the Kingspan Stadium on Friday will be a minimum requirement and then they have the chance to get revenge on Harlequins after they ended their home streak in the Premiership a few weeks ago.
As well as Dai Young’s injury crisis, Quins have 45 per cent of their squad unavailable. They have been training with London Irish and the situation is becoming almost unmanageable for certain teams, with those in charge of the new law changes now in the firing line.
It is a balancing act and you can’t just blame the lawmakers for creating lots more contacts when people were crying out for those changes before.
Two years ago everybody was moaning about the ball in play time being too low and saying that needed to improve in order to make the game more attractive.
There are now around 50 more contacts per game than there were in the past few years, according to some statistics that came out recently.
Skill levels have increased and the laws have been changed to make the sport more appealing to the public but the ball being in play for longer means that there are more contacts, there is more fatigue for players and the risk of injury is naturally higher.
We all want to see a more fluid game with less dead time and fewer reset scrums but we don’t want to see the injuries that result from having more contacts, so it’s taking time to get that balance right.
Injuries or no injuries, the Kingspan Stadium is a ridiculously tough place to go but a change is as good as a rest at times and it could be just what Wasps need right now.