I wrote a piece about James Haskell last weekend and mentioned the quality of players he had shared a pitch with as a Wasps professional. I thought I would have a go at putting together a Haskell Wasps XV, which is no easy task, given he first played for club in 2002 and has made over two hundred appearances, despite a four year break from Wasps during 2009-2013. Twelve seasons to choose from means it is not a straightforward selection!
So many to consider here. Tom Voyce, Tom Varndell, Paul Sackey, Kurtley Beale, Mark van Gisbergen, and increasingly Willie le Roux all deserve debate. For me though, three players stand out. At full back, I would select Charles Piutau, simply because of the impact he had during such a short period of time. There is a reason why Bristol are making him the highest paid player in world rugby, and you would struggle to find a Wasps fan who would not welcome back a player who was equally influential at outside centre as he was at number fifteen. On the right wing, it has to be Christian Wade. Quick, elusive and surprisingly powerful, it would be a huge surprise if he did not finish his career as the premierships leading try scorer. On the left, Josh Lewsey would get the nod. Great career at the club, as well as gracing the national team and the British & Irish Lions.
I would love to have seen a pairing of Riki Flutey at his best and Elliot Daly. Flutey’s first spell at Wasps was by far his strongest, and he was simply outstanding in his debut season for the club, which resulted in Wasps lifting the title. Daly is a supremely talented player, who seems to be getting more influential by the season, and has shown his class at the highest level in the past two seasons. Fraser Waters and Stuart Abbott would potentially make other fan’s starting teams.
So many options here. At scrum half, Joe Simpson, Dan Robson, Matt Dawson and Eoin Reddan have all trotted out with James Haskell. At fly half, Alex King, Jimmy Gopperth and arguably Andy Goode have been fans favourites during this time period. A tough selection, but I would go for Rob Howley and Danny Cipriani. There is a number of reasons to pick Howley, but this moment of pure drama stands out, and means he makes the cut. Cipriani is a player who can divide opinion, but is another who on his day is up there with one of the most talented players who have graced the league. There is numerous other combinations that could have been selected, showing the strength Wasps have enjoyed in this area during this spell.
James Haskell has to be in this team, as this is about him, leaving two other places! Not easy, when you have the likes of Joe Worsley, Tom Rees, Ashley Johnson, Nathan Hughes, and Serge Betsen to consider. Based on impact and status though, I cannot look further than Lawrence Dallaglio, and George Smith, two of the finest players England and Australia have ever produced. I would have loved to see Smith play another season at Wasps, given his immense influence, and Dallaglio is ‘Mr Wasps’, a one club man who captained the team for a number of seasons.
Perhaps the easiest combination of all of them to select. I always thought Tom Palmer was underrated, but Simon Shaw and Joe Launchbury pick themselves for this team. Shaw played over 300 times for Wasps over a fourteen year period, which is a remarkable statistic given the demands of this role, and Launchbury looks well set to be club captain for many years.
I think tight head takes care of itself, with Phil Vickery my choice, though Jake Cooper-Woolley is starting to push him close. At loose head, Tim Payne made over 250 appearances during a ten year spell, which makes him the strongest contender for the number one jersey. Matt Mullan and Simon McIntyre deserve a mention for their positive influence.
A few contenders here, which include Raphael Ibanez, Rob Webber, and possibly Carlo Festuccia. However, purely for the excitement he generated when he had the ball in hand, I would go for Trevor Leota. A beast of a player in every respect, and a huge fans favourite.
You could easily select two teams on reflection which would grace any game. Doing this as a Wasps fan you realise we have been genuinely spoilt, and Haskell has played with some absolute greats.
Do you agree or disagree with my selection? I would be keen to know your thoughts. Thanks for reading.