End of an era. Dai Young will forever be linked to Wasps. Approaching nearly a decade of service, he oversaw highs and lows which you would struggle to make up. I have read some excellent tributes to him over the last week and I genuinely feel sad to see him go. I wish him well and hope he stays involved in the game.
I am intrigued now in terms of the direction Wasps take, in terms of finding a replacement. The Rugby paper is reporting that a partnership of Joe Worsley and Dave Walder is potentially lined up. That sounds exciting, with both having strong connections to the club, and both having some decent coaching experience under their belts. Rob Howley was strongly rumoured a few weeks ago, but that may or may not be an option now with the recent changes. Whichever direction they choose, I would suggest with there really isn’t much room for error.
If you look at the form guide, Wasps have been really struggling for over eighteen months. Injuries have played their part, but I feel the biggest issue has been recruitment. For a variety of reasons, and there is no point naming names, some of Wasps higher profile imports have really struggled. Malakai Fekitoa has started to show what he can bring to the table in recent weeks, but is having a mixed time of things on the injury front. Since Wasps got to the Premiership final in 2017, I am struggling to think of a signing since who can unquestionably be classed as a success, with the exception of Nizaam Carr. Hopefully this will change in the coming months.
With this in mind, whoever takes up the reigns in terms of management has a job to do in terms of some key positions. Without sounding like a broken record, there are big issues to be addressed at 10 and 12, and potentially on the open side if Young Junior decides to try his luck in Wales given his circumstances now. It has been brilliant to see so many younger players getting game time this season, but I feel Wasps really need some experience bringing into these positions, to offer some additional leadership and game management in these roles. Freddie Burns and Ryan Mills have been linked, both of whom are good Premiership players, and perhaps the route Wasps need to follow now. A concern I have related to this is I am struggling to see how effectively Wasps can recruit for next season whilst the management situation remains unclear. I am all for taking the time to make the right appointment, but given most ‘transfer business’ happens fairly early in Rugby, the new management team needs opportunity to be competitive in this area, presuming there are funds available….
The other issue which the incoming management team will be looking to influence is the match day experience. Two points here. One is that with the exception of the Christmas Cracker, the fan village seems to have been knocked on the head. I can guess why, but feel the club needs to be a bit more transparent about this. As a father of two young kids, it has impacted what time we arrive to the games now, and their experience of the matches. However, improved performances will lead to better attendances, and hopefully make this a more frequent offering again. Linked to performances, I really hope Wasps can continue to rediscover their attacking DNA. There has been glimpses in recent weeks. Second half performances against both Bristol, Northampton and Worcester offered hope that the team were rediscovering some of the attacking ambition that made them such a great team to watch from a spectating perspective.
As always, plenty to keep an eye on in the coming weeks, and with the threat of relegation lifted, I just hope we can all just relax a little and enjoy watching the team develop.
Enjoy the game on Friday, and hopefully the first official game post Dai Young will be one to remember for the right reasons.