Wasps boss Lee Blackett had insisted he won’t be going in the transfer market to find a replacement for the soon-to-exit Lima Sopoaga, the ex-All Blacks out-half who is leaving England behind for a stint in the Top 14 with Lyon. It was April 13 when Sopoaga, the 30-year-old playmaker capped on 16 occasions by New Zealand, confirmed on social media that he would be leaving Wasps following a three-season stay.
However, rather than dip into the market and sign someone else, Blackett has explained the club will now place every faith in youthful duo Jacob Umaga and Charlie Atkinson being their No10s for the next ten years. The Wasps boss also dismissed as unfounded the speculation linking Worcester’s Billy Searle with a return to Coventry where veteran New Zealander Jimmy Gopperth is still on the books and more than playing his part at the age of 37.
Reflecting on the impending exit of Sopoaga, who first came to England in 2018, Blackett said: “There has been some highs and lows. He is a quality player and I’m sure he will be a success where he goes next. Unfortunately, it has come to the end and it happens. Look, he has added to the group, he has brought experience and we wish him and his family all the best.”
Asked how Wasps would fill the vacancy left by Sopoaga, who arrived as an out-half but will leave having spent more time lately playing at full-back, Blackett continued: “We won’t be looking at No10. If you are talking about the Billy Searle rumour we ain’t looking to recruit a 10, that is just agents looking for more money.
“Where we feel we are as a club in terms of the 10s, we have got Jimmy in behind and we have got Jacob who I feel he is returning to the form that I know he has. I know it was a disappointing team performance last weekend (at Exeter), especially the second half, but in terms of that Jacob showed signs again of getting back to his best.
"People start figuring them out, seeing if there are any weaknesses in their game and start targeting certain areas"https://t.co/sH7h9qXTWl
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 15, 2021
“In terms of Jacob’s effort at the weekend, just in terms of running speed, Pete Atkinson said for the last five years he has not seen anyone run the distances Jacob ran, his explosive running during the game. If you have a look at all our breaks at the weekend he was there, he was on the back, he was chasing things back. His work rate was brilliant. I expect that from everyone, but it’s more his play around the field – I thought he was a threat. I thought he was making a lot fewer errors and he looks to be getting back to his form.
“And then Charlie, in the U23 game the other day stood out like a sore thumb. Even at 18, I thought he looked a class above out there. When you have got two 10s like that, for us to bring in and add a third 10 to it and an experienced guy you are probably delaying their development.
“We have worked hard on Charlie already so quickly and we know Jacob. Jacob at his very best is a standout Premiership 10 and you have got a youngster in Charlie who is showing great potential and is already pushing Jacob for selection – so to bring in someone over the top of that, would that stunt the growth of these two that we believe is the future for the next ten years?
“If we were to bring someone in here, No10 would probably be their second position. It’s not something we are looking at at this moment of time but if we talk further down the line as a club in the future we would be looking at people that probably their second position is No10 covering behind because we are hoping Charlie and Jacob are our future now in the next ten years at least.”
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— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 21, 2021
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