2.30pm UK time on Saturday 14th May and the final whistle goes. Wasps are knocked out at the semi-final stage of European competition and based on the images doing the rounds, have very much been nursing their wounds since. Frustration and disappointment aplenty for the fans, so cannot imagine what it is like for the players.
Three days on, this is my take on the match and some of the big talking points.
- Full back. I absolutely see the logic in playing Jacob Umaga there. Second playmaker, can share some of the responsibility with Charlie Atkinson, etc. With a another fly-half coming in for next season, I suspect Umaga will continue to be selected in this jersey. However, I cannot see the logic of Zach Kibirige being picked in this role. He doesn’t look comfortable and I’m not sure why he now appears to be the second choice in this position. I find it really odd. I’m no expert on back play, but you could argue that the back three who started on Saturday contained two players out of position, and one player who has struggled for tries all season. Meanwhile you’ve got arguably Wasps three most dangerous broken field runners on a fast track either on the bench or not in the 23. Talking of which, I was there for Ali Crossdale’s first game for Wasps and like everyone came away genuinely excited at what I saw. I do though think though that people are having quite selective memories – he’s made his fair share of mistakes (like we all do) – watch back the highlights of the prem cup win over Sale, or the last 15mins vs Leicester at home, and you’ll see what I mean. However, I do feel what he offers in attack, with weather like Saturday, potentially tips this risk / reward selection in his favour. Will we see him this Friday?
- Centres. Saturday was the last time we will see the 12 / 13 combination of Jimmy Gopperth and Malakai Fekitoa featuring for Wasps in knockout rugby. I’ll probably write a separate post about the man in 12, but I’d be interested to know what Wasps supporters have made of Fekitoa’s time here. For me, I don’t think we’ve ever quite seen the best of him, in person. He seemed to struggle a little initially to settle in, but then began to really hit his straps during the second part of the covid interrupted season, all of which then switched to behind closed doors rugby. He got injured in the semi-final, and picked up a nasty shoulder injury in the first game of this term, as well as a bad knock to his ribs. There’s no doubting his quality but I think it’s a shame that injuries have probably reduced the impact he has had at the club. What do others think? I was also interested to read that Piers O’Conner has signed another contract with Bristol to bed, putting any rumours about him returning to Wasps to bed, sadly. I notice Ollie Lawrence is back on the bench for Worcester…..
- Back to selection. I look at the forward pack now and am really excited about next season. That starting eight from the weekend will still be here, with two more international props on the way in, three if you count Rodrigo Martinez who we only saw glimpses off and has now joined permanently. It’s looking really strong, when you think who else is in reserve. Most of us would name a very similar starting pack if everyone was fit. Backs though, you could argue that there’s significant debate about every position. In many ways that is a good thing because Wasps do have depth, but in others, it is symbolic of the unsettled nature of the back division currently. Who’s going to be the starting 12 and 13 next season for example? We’d all have different answers to that question, before you even begin to discuss the other positions.
- England tour. Talking of the pack, England are off to Australia for a three match tour. The starting pack for Wasps on Saturday was an English one. How many do you think might get the call? Two? Three? Zero? I’ll go for an optimistic four. Alfie Barbeary, Joe Launchbury, Jack Wills and one of Tom West or Biyi Alo.
Thanks as always for reading. Enjoy the game on Friday.