Time to be honest folks, this has been a pretty dire season so far. Low on excitement, low on quality, and high on frustration and angst. New signings have generally struggled to adapt, confidence appears at an all time low, and if you believe all of the transfer speculation, the vast majority of Wasps first choice fifteen want out. Terrific.
Central to this theme is Elliot Daly. Like many, I am a massive fan. Adaptable, quick, deceptively strong, and his long range penalties are, at times, just ridiculously good. He could have been a professional cricketer by all accounts, just to add to his many talents. He has been with Wasps since he was at school, scored over three hundred points, and played over one hundred and fifty times. Now if rumours are to be believed he wants to switch to Saracens next season. He is still in contract, but apparently has a clause in it about the training ground issue which allows him to leave if he wishes to.
Let us presume he is going. This sounds far to specific a story to be fabricated I am afraid, and the silence about it from Wasps recently is pretty deafening. I personally am struggling to know what to make of it. In some ways, I am not sure it will be a huge loss for Wasps. He is an absolute fixture for England, and in World Cup year, with the six nations looming, whoever he is playing for will struggle to see him much in club colours in 2019. I also think Eddie Jones constant tinkering with him has not helped his performances this season. Last year he seemed to have established himself as left winger, first for country, and then got moved there for club. His try scoring record suggested this was going well. Jones then moved him to fifteen for the summer tour in South Africa, and he has played there, centre and winger for Wasps this season. I think this has affected his form, which in my humble view has been pretty patchy, but he certainly is not alone on that front.
What worries me more about his exit, is what his departure would symbolise, as opposed to the departure itself. If Wasps are serious about competing at the top table of not only premiership, but European rugby, losing arguably their star player on a contractual technicality to another English club is pretty embarrassing. I am sure there are all sorts of reasons for it, but would Daly really be looking to leave his boyhood club if he truly believed Wasps were on the verge of consistently competing for silverware? I think not.
However, there are parallels with this saga that I have experienced in my previous other passion. Let me present the case of young Michael Owen. In 2004, I was an avid Liverpool fan, and was beyond angry that Liverpool had let their star player move to Real Madrid for a farcical eight million pounds. He had been there since he was a kid, was a fixture in the England team, and appeared disillusioned by departures of other players, and thought he could get silverware elsewhere. Sound familiar? Less than a year later, young Michael had to sit and watch with his mouth open as his former team mates won the European Cup following potentially the most famous sporting comeback in the last fifty years.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that Wasps are going to win the European Cup next year. To be honest, with how things are panning out, I will be pleased if they are competing in any type of European competition next term! What I am saying is that all is not lost if he does go. Sport can at times be wonderfully unpredictable, and does not always follow a set script. If it did, would we bother watching?
What is most vital now, in my view, is if the stories of outgoings are to be believed, Wasps have not got too much room for error when it comes to incoming players. I know as much as the next man, but I do know that those in charge of Wasps are not daft. With Danny Cipriani and Christian Wade gone, if Daly is on is bike too, those at the top will know that high quality replacements are needed. Along those lines, former Wasps player Brendan Macken in a recent interview has suggested that two of these will be Waisake Naholo and Malakai Fekitoa. If you are not sure who these two are, I would encourage you to have a look on youtube, and spot the connection they have with our current number ten. If there is any truth in this, and Fekitoa is a done deal by all accounts, things suddenly look slighty brighter.
It would be good if things looked a little brighter after Sunday’s game. Wasps really need a win, with a big break coming before the next league fixture. Dai Young looks like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders, and whether you rate him or not, you cannot question the desire and passion he has for the club.
2018 was not a dull one for Wasps, and 2019 won’t be either. Let us hope Wasps start playing again with some more confidence, and if Daly is off, I just hope he can sign off in style, starting on Sunday.
Thanks for reading….