It is a very interesting, and lets face it, enjoyable time to be a Wasps supporter. The team is playing as well, if not better than the have in a long long time. We have a stunning nine wins from our last eleven games across all competitions, and four out of our last five wins have been bonus point wins with no less than 27 tries in those five wins.
Everyone says Wasps are the form team of the Premiership, and by pretty much any metric you choose to measure us against they are right. And it has been going on long enough now that the dark days of looming bankruptcy and relegation battles seem a very long time ago indeed. Wasps are riding the crest of a wave, and that worries me.
The general chatter is that we are fully expected to carry on scoring tries for fun and to do the business against Newcastle Falcons this weekend. There is even talk on the fan forums about letting our big name players have a week’s rest.
This, in my opinion, would be a huge mistake.
I’ll explain why.
When this season’s form started, it did so in a patchy way. We’d lurch between stunning wins (Leinster and Toulon anyone?) and disappointing losses (Chiefs, Bath, Toulon away?). You’d be hard pushed to say whether our current run really started with the win against Saints at Franklins Gardens, or with the St Valentine’s day massacre where we demolished Saracens at Allianz Park. There are arguments in favour of both, but the game that separates them was a lacklustre performance at home against, you guessed it, Newcastle Falcons. We nicked a win by a single point.
Maybe it was just a blip? Perhaps that game was the exception that proves the rule? We’d have to look at the last season to find out. Admittedly we weren’t playing quite so well, but when we last travelled to the frozen wastelands of the North we were lucky to leave with a draw. To find a resounding win you have to go back to September 2014 when Tom Varndell and Andy Goode gave us a bonus point win.
Varndell is long gone, and whether you are happy or sad about it there is no changing it. And Goode currently plays for, yes, you guessed it again, Newcastle Falcons. He came out of retirement to help them with their injury crisis, and has proved yet again that he has a brilliant rugby brain, and an ability to read the game second to none. This weekend will be his last ever game in the premiership, not only has he made that clear, but his short term contract will have run its course. Falcons are marketing this game as “Goode Sunday” and you can fully expect him to play at least part of the game, even if they have to wheel him onto the pitch on a hospital trolley. He desparately wants to go out on a high note, and if there was ever any tactician in the game who would know how to play against Wasps it is him.
He knows full well that our attack is firing brilliantly, and that Gloucester neutralised us perfectly. He also knows that we almost always prefer to run the ball than kick it. A well executed kicking game with a hard and fast kick-chase is exactly what negates us, and it is exactly what suits him down to the ground.
That is why we don’t want to rest our best players. At the very most we have ten games left this season. And that is only if we make it to both the premiership and ECC finals. We need our best Full back on the field at 15, and that is Charles Piutau. We need our best wingers on the field and they are Christian Wade and Frank Halai, we need our best centres in the middle, and they are Siale Piutau, and Elliot Daly, and we need our best half backs linking it together. They are Gopperth and Robson on current evidence.
Our pack needs to dominate, and we need to be competing for the ball at every possible opportunity. A ruck is not a reset, it is a chance to win the ball. A lineout is a chance to turn them over, and a scrum is simply a try waiting to happen.
We need the team that can perform the best on an artificial surface, and so that is why I fully expect to see Launch, Mullan, and Daly straight back to the first choice. I expect to see Davies on the bench along with Jackson and Cittadini, and I expect to see Hask having a week to recover from the atrocious level of damage he took dominating almost every breakdown in a 6 Nations Grand Slam.
I’d be very happy to empty the bench early on if it looks like we have it in the bag, but I’d hate to go with the arrogance of the assured winners, because if there was ever a team perfectly placed to show us the error of our ways it is Falcons. They desparately need the points right now, and if we take our eye off the ball (literally and metaphorically) they will destroy us.
My team to face Newcastle Falcons this weekend would be.
With a bench of
And if we take that team, I’d expect us to come away with another good(e) win.