Walder: I can be Wasps' go-to-guy
August 17, 2010
Dave Walder is hoping to steer Wasps to success this season © Getty Images
After one of the more protracted media storms in recent memory, Wasps have begun life without Danny Cipriani.
While their ferociously talented former fly-half continues to generate column inches with stories about a possible defection to football prior to his move to the Melbourne Rebels, the build-up to Wasps' Aviva Premiership campaign has been running like clockwork.
Their recruitment for the season complete, coaches Tony Hanks and Shaun Edwards have set about moulding a side with enough variation and attacking nous to trouble the play-offs for the first time since 2008, when Lawrence Dallaglio eventually signed off with a Premiership victory at Twickenham.
Following the departure of Cipriani, it's one of the club's old stagers who may have the biggest say in their campaign. At 32, Dave Walder has the No.10 jersey that he shared last season firmly in his sights. The former Newcastle pivot has high-class competition again this season though, in the form of close friend Riki Flutey, who has returned to the club after an injury-ravaged season in France with Brive.
Walder, as he did when going toe-to-toe with Cipriani, is taking the new competition in his stride. He is pleased with his form and is confident that his ultra-reliable game management will be called upon as Wasps seek to make an impact not only on the domestic stage but also upon their return to the Heineken Cup with an away trip to Toulouse in October.
"We've actually got more fly-halves this year than we did last year," he said. "Everyone always asks me about Danny and I wish him well. He's a very exciting talent and I'm sure he'll go on to good things. From my point of view it's good that I'll get a crack at it.
"I've got a good friend of mine, Flutes, coming back in, I was very tight with him before he left. I probably saw more of him while he was in France than I did the year before due to his injuries, but when he came back it was exciting for me. Obviously I'm competing against him but at the same time I like to think that there's space for the both of us, we offer different things.
"I always said when everyone asked about Danny, it was a case of 'we're completely different'. I say that Riki and I are completely different. Some games the coaches will favour him because of the way that he plays and some games they'll favour me, I'm looking forward to it and I think we've recruited really well over the summer."
With Flutey being expected to cover both 10 and 12, the position in which he won England and British & Irish Lions recognition, Walder expects plenty of opportunities with Flutey playing outside him.
"He's run a lot at 10 in pre-season but 12 is where he's played internationally, but last time he was here he covered 10," he said. "I think he played the Guinness final against Leicester at 10 [in 2008] when I was injured and Danny was injured. He's more than capable but I think if you asked him he'd want to play 12 with a view to his international ambitions."
Walder has added reason to impress this season as his current deal at Adams Park is set to expire in 2011. While he has dipped his toes in the coaching water with a part-time role at Rosslyn Park he is committed to winning a further deal to continue trying to push Wasps back to the top of the game.
"I did play more rugby last year than maybe I had done the two years previous and I think I played as well as i has done previously," he said. "It would be nice to get some consistency, my contract is up this year so from that point of view I'm playing for my contract. I'm playing for a contract but ultimately it's in my hands. I want to be the go-to-guy. Everything's up to me."
Huw Baines is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.