If you were starting from scratch, and wanted to create a rugby team that would dominate game after game with fast, free-flowing rugby that is both a delight to watch, and the envy of all the other teams, you certainly wouldn’t start by employing an ex prop as your head coach. Even if it was a prop who had represented his country more than fifty times, and played for the British and Irish Lions in three separate decades. But that is exactly the situation at Wasps with Dai Young.
Who is Dai Young?
David “Dai” Young is one of the most successful front rowers the UK has created. And it is down to him that Wasps are playing as well as they are right now. But how is it that a man who was famed for his scrummaging and raw power on the field can create such a dynamic and exciting style of rugby?
If there is anything that playing in the front row gives you it is strength of character. It teaches you that even when things seem bad and you are under the cosh you can turn it around. If you dig deeper, push harder, and exert your will a little more, then you can make a very real difference. No-one would have blamed Dai Young if he had walked away in Wasps’ darkest hour. He wasn’t being paid, the team was in freefall towards relegation, and he even had to buy supplies from his own pocket. But he didn’t walk away. He stuck with the team, and almost by will power alone held it all together.
Every time over the last few years a player signing has been announced they have said how impressed they were with Dai and his vision for the club. It is clear now that this was not just marketing. It was completely genuine.
The giant of a man, famous for not smiling, has created an idea of how he wants his team to play, found and signed players who could achieve what he wanted from them. Sourced individual coaches who had the right reputation and made it happen.
Every gameplan is based on a solid defence, and in Brad Davis, Dai found a coach who could really turn things around. Before his arrival Wasps had numerous players who could score tries for fun from individual brilliance, but the team leaked tries like a sieve. Not any more.
Our attack was brilliant, but unstructured. Lee Blackett has given us a structure that has proved hard to deal with. It utilises the dazzling speed of Wade, Simpson, Daly, and others, it utilises the power and strength of Johnson, Hughes, and Haskell. It creates opportunities where there were none, and it leads to try after try.
Our kicking both from the tee and out of hand was average at best, Mark Tainton has taken skilled players, and given them what they needed to be among the best in the league.
However good we looked when things were going well, unforced errors and handling mistakes were our undoing in game after game. Andy Titterall has not only given the team exactly what they needed to cut these out, but also helped one of the best back rowers in the Premiership become one of the best Hookers in the Premiership.
All of this would be irrelevant if the players weren’t able to actually do it. If they didn’t have the speed, or the power the gameplan needed. If they were gasping on the halfway line instead of running a beautiful support line. And in Dan Baugh, Dai brought in a Strength and Conditioning coach up to the task of making the fittest players in the league.
Dai Young has not only assembled the form squad of the Premiership, but he has brought together a brilliant team of coaches to make his vision a reality.
It is quite an astonishing turnaround when you consider how close the club were to relegation, and financial bankruptcy that a handful of seasons later we can top the league in almost every aspect of game play.
If anyone wants to know who the best signing Wasps have made in the last few years, it is undoubtedly Dai Young.
*Edit – I missed a coach out when I first published this. My excuse is that they aren;t listed on the Coaching Staff page, but in reality I messed up. Sorry Dan…