'The Leicester match summed up our season': Wasps boss on disappointing campaign
Lee Blackett said he would find it hard to watch the next two weeks of Gallagher Premiership play-off action after Wasps’ disappointing season ended with a 38-31 defeat against midlands rivals Leicester in their 13th league loss.
Wasps were pipped in last season’s final by Exeter after finishing second in the table, but injuries and international call-ups meant they struggled to build on that and they scraped into the Heineken Champions Cup in eighth place.
“In terms of effort and commitment, it has been 10 out of 10 for the squad and staff,” said head coach Blackett.
“The Leicester match summed up our season: We lost three players to head injuries, ended with three hookers on the field, saw Alfie Barbeary pull out after taking a knock in training on Friday and made crucial mistakes when in possession.
“We were just a couple of percentage points away from being a side contesting for the title rather than one of the final places in the Champions Cup.
“The players have given their all and at the end they did not have much left in the tank emotionally.”
Blackett is confident Wasps will mount a title challenge next season, not least because they will have a proper pre-season and the players will be able to socialise after 15 months of having to stay apart off the field.
“You cannot overestimate the effect the restrictions have had on young players, especially those without children to offer a distraction when they get home,” said Blackett.
“I remember sitting on the coach on my own as we drove home after last season’s final worrying about the emotional toll it would take on the players.
“We suffered during the international periods in the autumn and the Six Nations, but we also lost a number of really tight games.
“I am pleased we qualified for Europe, but it will be hard watching the play-off games having been in the final last year.”
Leicester’s bonus-point victory saw them finish in sixth, their highest position since the 2017-18 campaign after their first full season under head coach Steve Borthwick, who took over at Welford Road last July.
“I am not someone who looks at the table,” said Borthwick. “It is all about working hard and improving every week.
“I will be spending the next few weeks reviewing every match this season and making sure we are ready for the next one.”
Borthwick paid tribute to England prop Ellis Genge who captained the Tigers against Wasps and spent all but the last few minutes on the field leading his side to victory on a ground where they had only won once.
“He is someone players follow,” said Borthwick. “When he speaks, he grabs the group and on the field he leads by example.
“He has been terrific.”
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