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The Social Media Reaction to Dai Young leaving

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I have long been a fan of Dai Young.

It is clear looking at the majority of the Wasps related posts across websites and social media that I am not alone in that.  However there seems to be an undercurrent that I honestly find quite disturbing. It goes a bit like this.

It was Dai and Dai alone that saved our club and he has been forced out by avaricious bean counters who don’t care a jot for the game.

That couldn’t be more wrong, and in my attempt to prove that to you I’m going to change the subject completely.

Some five and a bit years ago my youngest son was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. He spent over a year having several operations and undergoing regular chemotherapy.  I spent the time trying to raise money for the one small charity that funded research into his disease.

When he was officially categorised as being in remission, I announced it on several websites where people had been supportive of me, and that afternoon I had a surprise phone call.

A gentle Irish voice introduced himself as Derek Richardson from Wasps. He’d rung to say how pleased he was to hear my news and to invite me to bring my son (and the rest of my family) to the Ricoh to meet the players after a game.

We chatted for the best part of an hour, about our favourite moments for the club – Clearly the recent thrashing of Toulon at home featured highly – about rugby in general, and about the future of the club.

He was as good as his word, and we did indeed get to meet the players, a flag signed by the squad still has pride of place in my daughter’s room, and my youngest, the reason for the whole thing now considers “Big Joe”, and Ashley to be his friends.

Derek Richardson and my kids

Derek and I have stayed in touch.  From time to time we chat and it’s always about the rugby.  His passion for the game and for Wasps specifically is impossible to ignore.  And so when people refer to him and the team he has assembled as dishonest, as avaricious, as “stuffed blazers”, as “greedy bean counters”, it makes me genuinely angry.

Yes Dai Young paid for supplies out of his own pocket before Derek came on board, and there is no one who would deny Dai his place in the hall of Wasps legends.  But one thing should be immediately clear to anyone who has the sense to look.

The man who actually saved our club from oblivion was Derek Richardson.

He’s the man who has paid truly vast sums of money from his own pocket to make the club what it is today.

He’s the man who provided the funds that allowed Dai to assemble the amazing squad he did.

He’s the man who ensured we had a home when we were teetering on the verge of bankruptcy at Adams Park.

He’s the man who worked his entire career to become rich and then poured the sort of money that most of us will never see without a lottery win into the club we all love.

He’s the man who never asked for thanks.

He’s also the man who is always found in the crowd supporting the team, at home and away.

He’s the man chatting to fans in a bar in France before a European game.

He’s the man making sure a small child he’d never actually met had an amazing time at a game.

He’s also the man who is almost certainly going to tell me off for writing this.

So yes, Dai leaving is the end of an era, it’s sad, and we should all be grateful to the big man for what he has done for us.

But the fact remains that we are a club who has an owner who genuinely cares. If you ask him, he’ll tell you that the important thing is the club. It is bigger than any one person, him included.

He’s doing the very best he can for the club, he always has, and I strongly suspect he will continue to for some time.

We’ve got an amazing senior team at Wasps assembled by Derek, and I have no doubt that we will end up with another amazing DOR.

I’m sad it didn’t work out with Dai. 

But more than that, much more in fact.

I’m bursting with excitement about where the club is going.

It’s the start of a new era, and I can’t wait!

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An Open Letter to David Young

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Dear Dai,

You probably don’t remember, but we met a little while ago. It was in the players lounge at the Ricoh. I was stood just inside the players entrance with my youngest son and you came through.  I shook your hand and thanked you for all you had done to save the club I loved.

You looked really surprised.

I kind of understand why, as you were getting a bit of stick online from certain quarters due to the disappointing results we’d had of late.

You’ve been brave enough to comment on how the negativity affected you personally, and how you felt personally responsible for the losses.

But I think the fact that you take responsibility for the things that are happening is exactly why you were the absolute best person to be at the helm of Wasps when you were.

No-one would have blamed you for walking away when we were at Adams Park on the verge on bankruptcy, but you didn’t.  You’d said you were coming, and you aren’t the sort of man to walk away from a problem, even if it would have been perfectly reasonable.

You took on a failing team, in a financially untenable position, and you did amazing things.

We all know about you dipping into your own pockets when the club didn’t have any money, but you did so much more than that.

You gave us Joe Launchbury, Christian Wade, Elliot Daly, and Sam Jones.

You gave us Tom Varndell on one wing with Christian Wade on the other.

You gave us Ruaridh Jackson’s try against Toulon when we beat them at home.

You gave us Andrea Masi launching a kick downfield and then running half the length of the pitch to flatten Thomas Waldrom the second he caught the ball.

You gave us George Smith ripping the ball time and again.

You gave us Charles Piutau doing more amazing things than I can care to remember.

You gave us Jimmy Gopperth slotting a kick from the touchline to snatch a win from Chiefs.

You gave us Beale and Le Roux playing together like they were born to, slicing defences apart like tackling had gone out of fashion.

You took a team that was on the brink of extinction, and turned them into the envy of the rugby playing world.

So whatever the cause for the recent slump in form is, it changes nothing.

Whether you jumped or were pushed we will probably never know, and to be honest it doesn’t matter.

We all owe you.

So thank you.

From the very bottom of my black and gold striped heart.

THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU HAVE DONE.

Just remember, whatever the future brings, you are one of us. 

Once a Wasp, always a Wasp.

I know I am not alone in wishing you the very best in whatever comes next for you in your future. But I do hope that whoever you take on we don’t end up playing against them, as I will honestly find it hard to pick a team to support.

We all know that all good things come to an end, and this is the end of an era that had some truly great moments.  I’ve never wished more that Nathan hadn’t been penalised at the end of extra time in THAT final and you could leave with a well deserved title.

But it is what it is.

All the best for the future, it’s been a blast.

Vespula Vulgaris.

Dai Young

Goodbye Dai

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For the Good of Rugby?

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With the Saracens PR machine running at full tilt we are being bombarded with the surefire knowledge that they are a team who has spent a fortune developing players to hit their potential.  Their academy and coaching team have gifted the nation a team of giants forged from the dregs of other clubs and malnourished children they found languishing in second rate village clubs.

It is also clear that Nigel Wray was simply ensuring that players got the things they deserved.  He was giving them all they needed to ensure their success once their ability to play was behind them.  If he inadvertently exceeded the salary cap then it was a genuine mistake and nothing more.

As if this wasn’t enough then it has been made utterly clear that every single club is actually doing the same things, probably worse than Sarries are, and that if they were only honest enough to admit it then this whole unpleasant episode could be put behind us.

Saracens are being unfairly made the scapegoat in order to take the focus on the actual villains in rugby.

In fact Saracens should be applauded for their willingness to take a hit in order to protect the good of the game for us all. All the mistakes were made by the lovely Mr Wray entirely by himself, the rest of the board, the coaching team, and the players knew nothing about it.

Right.

Now that’s the complete bullshit out of the way let’s actually look at some of the facts without the ridiculous spin.

Sarries created the best players in the country.

Players like Itoje, and Farrell came through the Saracens academy and they are certainly among the best we have in the country right now.  But players like Mako and Billy Vunipola most certainly did not.  Mako had 40 appearances for Bristol before signing for Sarries, and Billy had 41 for Wasps.

So some they did, some they did not.  Much the same as every other club out there.

The only difference is that unlike all of the other clubs Saracens continually retained their best players, and yet somehow also managed to hoover up the best from the other clubs.  When contracts were up for renewal, the very best potential always seemed to have the option of moving to Sarries regardless of the cost.

We also need to remember that once a team has a number of great players then developing academy players gets so much easier.

Success breed success however that success is arrived at in the first instance.

A youngster with potential is far more likely to be a success when they train in the same organisation as half the England international squad at Sarries, as opposed to turning out twice a week for Haslemere Community Rugby Club (nothing against Haslemere, I played for them, they’re awesome people and I’m proud to have worn their strip in the mud of Woolmer Hill).

So the question is not are Saracen’s developing quality players, clearly they are.  What we need to ask is how they got into the situation they are currently in where they can offer the very best to aspiring players with real potential. And then we might look at how they managed to buy the best players other clubs could not afford to keep.

Was Nigel doing this purely to help the players’ future after rugby?

No, he most certainly was not.

The fact is that his joint business ventures that somehow managed to put vast amounts of money into the pockets of players only seemed to be an option for Saracen’s players, not the wider rugby community, and even within Saracens they only materialised for the very best.  Ashton, Wigglesworth, Farrell etc.

So let’s not pretend that they were anything other than a deliberate attempt to get extra money into the pockets of the players they were most likely to lose.  The players that would ensure they were in the very best position to win yet more titles.

Saracens are being unfairly targeted

Now lets look at the idea that if Sarries are expected to open their books then all the other clubs too because everyone is at it.

To some degree I don’t disagree with this.  But that is what the Salary cap is.  A fairly simple way for all the clubs to demonstrate they aren’t cheating.

But the in-depth forensic study of the club’s accounts is a big deal. Obviously it shouldn’t be limited to just Saracens, it should absolutely be forced on every single club who has been repeatedly found guilty of breaching the cap.  Year after year, season after season.  Punishment after punishment.

If you break the cap, and you accept your punishment, and then you break the cap again in a blatant and deliberate way then you should be forced to open your books for scrutiny.

It’s just that right now Saracens are the only club who fit that criteria.

The players and coaches knew nothing about it

That is clearly a lie.

Maro Itoje was allegedly paid almost £100,000 for attending a series of events organised by the lovely Mr Wray’s daughter’s company (she also coincidentally happens to be a shareholder in Saracens). Only he didn’t actually attend any events.  And we are supposed to believe that he didn’t even notice he was being paid over three times the average national salary for doing precisely nothing?

No clearly not.

The idea that Saracens are so lovely that players would willingly give up money to be part of that club is one of the most damaging claims of the lot.  I could go on, but to be honest even thinking about it makes me angry, so I won’t.

The same logic applies to the coaching team.

Mark McCall may be one of the best coaches around, but we’ll actually never know how good he is because he had a squad that was assembled illegally to be bigger and better than any of the others.  It’s the equivalent of a cyclist winning the tour de France on a motorbike and then his coach claiming to be the best.

To suggest he never even questioned why his squad had vastly more internationals than anyone else’s is just laughable. He either knew full well, or he is a dribbling imbecile. For the record I do not think he is a dribbling imbecile.

The simple facts of the matter are that over many years Saracens have deliberately cheated the regulations they signed up to. They have repeatedly and cynically broken the rules in order to get their dishonest, cheating hands on the trophies the rest of us thought were actually fairly up for grabs.

Every single fan who has paid money to watch a game in the premiership did so under false pretences.

Every single club who has missed out on Europe, the premiership playoffs, home advantage, or the title itself did so because Saracens cheated.

Every single owner who had to pay more for players to keep them because Saracens offered them more did so because of a lie.

Every single team that was relegated and had to make staff redundant did so because Sarries were happy to lie in order to win.

Every single sponsor who paid good money to have their name associated with the game on the basis that it was a fair competition was cheated too.

The list goes on and on.

Saracens stole money from my pocket, from your pockets, and from the metaphorical pockets of the clubs we love.

The stole the title, they ignored the damage they were doing, and worst of all they had the gall to stand up and pretend that they were doing it for the good of rugby.

Relegation is too good for them.

Reasons to be Cheerful

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There’s no point in pretending this year has been anything other than a bit of a disaster for Wasps, the fall from grace has been a big one, and it hurts.  Yes we’ve lost almost 50% of our squad availability this year.  Yes we had our shining star of a Winger and a multi capped England prop both give up the game for good and walk out, yes we’ve had players that came to us on season after season of stunning form fail to replicate it in black and gold, but that is not what this article is about.

In this article I am going to talk about all the reasons I am optimistic and cheerful about the future as a Wasps fan.

Dai Young

Photo: Richard Lane/Richard Lane Photography. Wasps Pre Season Training. 04/08//2015. Wasps’ Dai Young, Director of Rugby.

Coaching

Let’s face it, this can only improve.

Currently, even if we include Dai, we have more first team physios than coaches. Any increase in the size of the coaching team is likely to have a beneficial effect on the performance of the team.  The fact is that while self directed drills are great, the one thing that has been shown to have the biggest effect on top level sporting performance is dedicated professional coaching.  So more equals better.

On top of that there have been a lot of rumours about the possible appointment of Shaun Edwards as a Head Coach.  I have no idea if this will happen, but the fact that senior staff at Wasps have gone on record as saying that they want someone of Shaun’s calibre would suggest that there is something in the pipeline for someone to come on board, whether it is him, or another top level coach. I can think of at least one other person who has a connection to the club who could be in need of a coaching job next season.  And I bet there are more besides.  The world cup will likely see a number of people look to move on to new roles, be they club coaches, or even international level coaches.

I would be very surprised indeed if next season didn’t see us with a new senior coach working under Dai at the very least.

Wasps Academy

Recruitment

This season will go down in memory as the one where the effects of the salary cap hit us and we lost a stack of players who had either come up through our ranks, or had come to us as nothing more than second rate journeymen and truly hit their stride. Will Stuart, Elliot Daly, Nathan Hughes, Jake Cooper-Wooley, even Willie le Roux could reasonably fall into this category.

Despite our supposedly poor training facilities (I still think this is a smokescreen invented by one specific disgruntled player) and our clearly terrible coaching we have taken players and helped them shine so brightly we could not afford to keep them.

However there has been one other thing that we can say about this season.

It is the season where the academy has started to bear fruit. Historically our academy produced some of the best players in the world, but in recent times it has not been something Wasps’ fans wanted to talk about.  We looked at clubs like Saracens with genuine envy. Yet this year we have Jack Willis playing back at his stunning best in the first team, his younger brother captaining England U20s, we have Will Porter showing he can hold his own in the first team squad we have Alfie Barbeary playing for both England  U18s and also U20s while still at school.

As if they weren’t enough Sirker, Spink, Umaga, James, Oghre, and Anderson are just a few more of the players who look to have everything they need to make the switch to the senior level game.

And the junior academy is just as good right now. Barbeary aside we will undoubtedly see several of them making the move to the senior squad in the not too distant future.

It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to say this, but our academy is in a good place right now.

Concerts at the Ricoh Arena

The Infrastructure

As a person who just turns up, buys a beer or two and watches a game and then goes home it is hard to credit the vast difference in the underlying business that has occurred since the days at Adam’s Park.

The Ricoh is an amazing place, and when it is full of fans wearing the strip and waving flags it is hard to think of it being anything other than a roaring success.  But I would be very surprised if the rugby wasn’t just a small proportion of the income the club now has access to.

Not only do we have A-List concerts happening, but we have a truly world class conference facility.

We have one fully functioning hotel, and another one being planned. We have a Casino, and several places to eat.  It is possible we might lose CCFC as tenants (a subject for another article) and with them any revenue they generate for us. But I suspect this is not as big a figure as some would have us believe, and it could easily be offset to some degree or another by selling the extra weekends the venue will be unused for conferences or similar events. The stadium has a capacity of 40,000 for concerts, and the cheapest ticket you can get to go and see the Spice Girls in £60.

We don’t need a particularly big cut of that to make a difference, and that is not even looking at the money made from food and drink.

Some people will likely point out that he last few years of Wasps submitted accounts have shown a loss, and to those people I would like to point out that this is also a good thing for fans.

Wasps Holdings is a private company.  What this means is that it does not have a responsibility to a large group of public shareholders to show as big a profit as possible. Companies pay tax on all profits and so if a company uses any spare money it may have to reinvest in infrastructure then it can essentially use the money it would have paid in order to have more money later.

HMRC don’t mind this as it generally means that when you do start making a profit and paying tax it is a LOT.

Amazon made essentially no profit at all for the first ten years of its existence. And now Jeff Bezos is the world’s richest man.

Investing in future growth over hitting quarterly revenue targets is always a good sign that a company is planning for the long term.

And as a fan of Wasps nothing makes me happier than seeing that the owners of the club are planning for it to be successful way into the future.

Ear Trumpet

Communication

One last thing I want to mention, is that it is common to hear from other fans that the club is terrible at communicating.

I’d like to remind you of a couple of things.  Firstly we have no right to know what is going on around the boardroom table.  Wasps is a private company.  But much more than that there is both an ongoing lawsuit going on that will put restrictions on what can and cannot be said.  But also Wasps have issued a financial bond, which also places restrictions on the sort of thing that can be talked about.

A club that had no such bond can essentially say whatever they want about themselves, but Wasps does not have that luxury.  Statements that could be interpreted as affecting the market are not allowed.

So yes, direct communication is not great.  But instead of waiting for everything to be laid out in front of us, we should look at what is going on around the club, and draw what we can from that.

The future is great, the future is black and gold.

Do you agree or not?  Come discuss it in our forum!

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Is Dai Young the right man to lead Wasps?

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Dai Young

Photo: Richard Lane/Richard Lane Photography. Wasps Pre Season Training. 04/08//2015. Wasps’ Dai Young, Director of Rugby.

So here’s the thing.

Our Director of Rugby David “Dai” Young recently admitted to the Coventry Telegraph that he was in a “dark, lonely place”. I’d like to take a moment to express exactly how I feel about Dai Young at this moment.

I am truly, and deeply proud to have him at the helm of the club I love.

Obviously there is more to it than that, and I will explain, but I don’t want there to be any doubt in your mind as you start to read this.

We Owe Him

I’ve spoken about this many times, and so have many other people.  But during the club’s darkest days, when we were teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and we didn’t know how it was going to play out Dai stuck by the club.

He’d come on board not knowing how bad the situation was, and no-one would have blamed him for walking away but he didn’t. He dug deep, he paid for supplies out of his own pocket and he helped save Wasps from going under.  Clearly he didn’t do this by himself, but I honestly believe that we would not be here today if it was not for Dai.

He Genuinely Cares

He has a developed a reputation for hiding his emotions.  Whatever is going on on the field it is a rare day when he cracks a smile, or indeed shows any visible emotion. But I think it is safe to say that that is not the man he is.  It is simply the persona he takes on when sitting in the public eye as the leader of the club.

He has made it clear on many occasions that it is not about him.  That he is not the story.  And his approach effectively gives the press nothing to latch on to.  There are DORs who take vastly different approaches, and that is entirely their right.  But the recent rumours and negative press about the club show very clearly that he is doing the right thing.

But, and this is the bit that actually matters.  This doesn’t mean he doesn’t care. Just go read the article about how he felt watching Dan Robson not be brought off the bench in the England Ireland game last week.

He Has Real Vision

For years now Wasps have been playing a different game from everyone else.  Some have laid this at the door of Danny Cipriani, but anyone with eyes to see knows that this is not the case.

Whether it was us struggling at Adams Park with Stephen Jones at the helm, the stunning win against Toulon led by Ruaridh Jackson not long after moving into the Ricoh, or the glory days of 2017 when we finished 1st in the league the way the club has attempted to play has been the same.

How on earth a former world class prop can take a team and develop such a free flowing, running game is beyond me, but it is clear that that is his goal and  when it works well Wasps are the envy of every team in the world.

He Has Integrity

When the salary cap debacle exploded a few years ago there was one team that lead the way in being honest, accountable, and outraged at the idea that other clubs may have been cheating the cap. He was the man who stood up and made it clear that Wasps deeply opposed the alleged financial transgressions, and that we had no part in them.  Once he’d stuck his head above the parapet other DORs followed his lead.  But it was Dai who had the integrity to make his feelings clear.

Unlike many coaches in the public eye when Dai says something, you know he isn’t simply spinning a line to get the press off his back, or to create media interest for the sake of it.

It isn’t just with regards to the big rules, and the alleged cheating where his integrity shows.  He also refuses to pass the buck, even when he would be perfectly entitled to.  He recently said:

“It’s my job to support them, but it’s a pretty lonely place for me.”

His metaphorical shoulders are clearly as broad as his actual shoulders.

We’ve Got Your Back Dai

It is not exaggeration to say that Wasps have the names of some genuine rugby legends among their DORs  Melville, Gatland, McGeechan to name but a few.  And I for one would not swap Dai Young for any of them.

If you read this Dai, then please remember that despite the verbose tirades of a few outliers, pretty much all the fans of Wasps are proud you are our leader. You’re doing a great job, and we’ve got your back!

What do you think?  Are you on Dai’s team?  Come and tell us in our forums.

Wasps’ Training Facility

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There has been a lot of talk in the rugby press recently about the state of Wasps training facility.  I thought it might be interesting to look at some of the things that have been said in an objective way and see if there is any truth to the rumours.

Wasps' Training Facility

Wasps’ Training Facility – The Facts

Let’s start by looking at the facts.

When Wasps moved to Coventry, there was no ready-made training facility to move into. Plans were mooted to create a brand new, state of the art facility that would be the envy of the rugby world.  But until that could happen something else would have to fill the gap.

Initially the squad continued to train in the aging facility in Acton, still home to the amateur Wasps FC.  It was simply too far away from the club’s new home to fulfil its purpose for very long, but a permanent home had proved harder to find than anyone hoped.  A decision was made to create a temporary training facility in partnership with a local club and the training centre moved to Broadstreet.

Plans were drawn up and approved for a facility at the Alan Higgs centre, however they fell through.  Recently an announcement was made that a partnership with Old Leamingtonians Rugby Club to build the new centre on their ground.

Until that happens Wasps will continue to use the temporary facilities at Broadstreet.

So that’s the facts.  Let’s look at the rumours.

Wasps Training Facility – The Rumours

These fall into two categories.  Those related to a former player, and those related to a current player.

James Haskell, who played for Wasps for many years has gone on record complaining about the terrible facilities, describing them as not suitable for a top-flight club.  Haskell also made his feelings public about there being something wrong with the culture of the club before he left.

People have said there is no smoke without fire, but I think it is no coincidence that culture of the club, and the state of the facilities were of no interest to him until after his contract was not renewed. Whatever you feel about that it does seem that there is likely to be an element of sour grapes in his comments.

The comments of Charlie Matthews recently would back that up. He was quoted in the Coventry Telegraph as saying “I came from Quins hearing these rumours about training in a shed. I came here and it’s awesome”.

So what about Daly.

Until an official announcement is made it is hard to work out what of the noise about Elliot Daly is actually factual and what is not.  But the consensus appears to be that he is invoking a get-out clause in his contract relating to the training facilities in order to sign with Saracens.

Whether this is true or not it is pretty clear that the facilities were good enough to get him to the level where he became a nailed-on starter for England and also the British and Irish Lions.  The same facilities where Willie le Roux went from a forgotten former international to a genuinely world class international in demand everywhere around the world.  To say nothing of the Willis brothers, Jake Cooper-Wooley, and Will Stuart.  I could even mention a former Fly half here, but I won’t.

If Elliot wants to leave then I wish him all the luck in the world.  Rugby is a short and potentially dangerous career – just ask Sam Jones – but if he is leaving, it is not for lack of somewhere to train.

Are Training Facilities that important?

I’d like to finish by talking about wrestling. I was never much of a rugby player, I was enthusiastic, but not gifted.  I am however a pretty good wrestler.  Or at least I was until I ruined my knee.  Not the leaping off the ropes WWE type wrestler, but the grinding someone’s face into the side of a cage type of wrestler.

In wrestling in the UK there is a place that has become the stuff of legends.  A gym known as Riley’s.

It was a big shed on the outskirts of Wigan, and it was famed for its lack of facilities.  There was a big mat on the floor, and some nails hammered into the wooden walls to hang your clothes on. Yet despite not having any weights, and cardio equipment, or even a working shower, it produced some of the greatest wrestlers that ever lived.  Several world champions came out of there, and some of them went on to coach some of the greatest names in combat sports today. People like Kazushi Sakuraba, Josh Barnett, Eric Paulson, and many many more (including yours truly) can trace their pedigree back to Riley’s Gym.

It may be that modern athletes feel they need climate control. Maybe they need constant metabolic monitoring. Maybe they need hot and cold running supplements on tap 24 hours a day.

Or maybe they are just an added bonus.

I’d like to suggest that the negative press about the training centre at Wasps is nothing more than a smokescreen to cover up the fact that players are moving for more money and don’t want to admit it. Or in Haskell’s case they are simply after the publicity he needs now his career is done.

What do you think?  Come join in the discussion on our forums.