Wasps boss Lee Blackett has spoken about the sibling rivalry that has fired up Jack Willis and left the back row on the cusp of England honours after helping his club qualify for the 2019/20 Gallagher Premiership final.  

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The try-scoring Willis walked away from the Ricoh Arena on Saturday as the semi-final man of the match following Wasps’ comprehensive 47-24 win over Bristol and beaming coach Blackett revealed in the aftermath how sibling rivalry has helped to spur the 23-year-old’s game on to new heights since the post-lockdown resumption of rugby in England. 

“The scary thing, which I keep saying, is he is going to get better,” said Blackett in a post-match interview with BT Sport. “He has been outstanding. You just have to look at the number of turnovers he gets during the game, but he has added to his game. Look at the leg drive. 

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“It was said a couple of years ago there was a big competition between the two brothers, who was the better carrier? People said Tom (his 21-year-old brother who plays No8) was and that fired Jack up a little bit to work more on this side of the ball. Just look at his desire to get on the end (to score). 

“He is a big defensive leader for us, so a big round of applause. I can’t say enough for him,” continued Blackett, revealing the back garden dynamics in the Willis household growing up. “That was it, Jack tackled, Tom carried. And then Jack generally got up and stole the ball off him. That’s generally how it worked on the back garden.”

Later in a separate interview, Blackett said Willis was ready for England. “I don’t think Jack needs to do anything. He has put himself out there and it is now up to Eddie if he wants to select him. I don’t think he is the finished product. He has always been unbelievable over the ball – ever since he was tackling his brother in the back garden. His breakdown work is phenomenal.”

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It was only last February when Blackett because head coach in the wake of the departure of long-serving director of rugby Dai Young. Since then, Wasps have won a dozen of their 14 league games and they now head to Twickenham on October 24 for a first final since 2017 when they lost to Exeter after extra-time.

“It was some performance,” said Blackett after Bristol were sent packing. “They had me pretty speechless there. We have just spoken there now how this isn’t our final and not to celebrate like a final. It’s (only) part of the process of getting ourselves there and we need to make sure we look after ourselves. 

“I know that sounds a little bit negative but it wasn’t meant in that way, it was meant in a positive way because potentially when you play in this (a semi-final) and you come away with a performance like we did today, you play your final in the semi and that’s not what we’re about. 

“I’m absolutely delighted. We’re going to enjoy it. Why wouldn’t we? But we have got a big game coming up in a few weeks.”

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