The next chapter
October 24, 2011
Steve Thompson in his Wasps colours prior to the World Cup © Getty Images
It was back to work this week as I finally linked up with London Wasps and I am really excited about starting the next stage of my career.
I was talking to a few clubs at the end of last season but Wasps was where I wanted to play. I was close to moving to here in 2005 and it has always been a club I liked and respected. Sometimes you just get a great feeling about club and that is what hit me about the place. You also just have to look at what they've won over the years, the players that have served them so well and the whole belief behind the 'once a Wasp, always a Wasp' to be hooked by the idea of joining the club.
One thing in particular that drew me to them was their treatment of French hooker Raphael Ibanez. Many people thought that he was finished when he left Saracens but he went on to join Wasps and enjoyed arguably the best years of his playing career. They clearly know how to prolong a player's career and how to get the best out of them. That for me, along with the move down to London, seemed like the right challenge I needed in my life right now.
The option of a three-year deal was massive. Another club came in at the last minute with another two-year deal plus one offer but I said to Wasps let's make this a three year deal and I'll sign straight away because that was where I wanted to go. The deal was done and everyone was happy.
It was a shame that things didn't work out at Leeds. I went there with high hopes and having had a great season the year before it looked like they might start to go somewhere. But their recruitment plans did not work out, top players left and they weren't replaced. It was a shame because it is a great club and they are struggling again this year. They've also produced some great players like Danny Care, Tom Palmer, Jordan Crane and they have got some great youngsters coming through now but they need to keep hold of them.
When I signed at Adams Park they did not have a director of rugby but I wasn't worried. Wasps are big club and I knew they would get it right. They didn't know who would be taking charge when I put pen to paper but when they started talking about the people they were considering it was clear they were going to make a good decision. When it was announced that Dai Young would be taking over I was very happy. I think it will be really good move for the club and people I've spoken to have been impressed by what he's trying to do and he is obviously trying to take things forward.
From my point of view there is also the bonus that he has a special understanding of front rowers given his vast experience. It is a totally different place to play and only front rowers truly know how the game works there. We are a strange breed and I consider myself lucky to be part of that. And it is good to have someone else like that in charge of the club.
I may have been wrapped up with England for the last few months but that does not mean the Premiership season has passed me by. I've watched all the games because we had DVD copies of them sent out to us and it was interesting to see how the boys were playing. There's no doubt the defeat against Newcastle will have been disappointing and I think they see that as one that got away. Away at Exeter was always going to be difficult but they were lucky to be able to play the likes of Saracens in that first game and also Leicester during the World Cup period when they are having to survive without their international players. I think we can be pretty happy with our return so far but the next couple of games will be crucial. Another win and we could be into the top four but lose a game and suddenly a gap starts to appear.
As for my new team-mates and in particular my rivals for a starting place, I know Rob Webber very well and was on tour with England alongside him last year. He's a great lad and a good all round player and hopefully we can help each other during the course of the season. Tom Lindsay is another good player who similar to me likes to play like a back-row or even a back at times. He's another big, strong lad and I like to think that I can help him develop as a player too.
The squad has seen plenty of changes recently but I think the club needed a bit of a shake up and some of the younger players coming in has done that. Full credit to them, they have put their hands up and are really playing well. Sometimes you need that to give the older ones a kick up the backside. They need to know that if they don't play well then they are out the team and with plenty of youngsters coming through the competition can only be a good thing.
The plans for the new ground may not have worked out and owner Steve Hayes may have put the club up for sale but everyone is still focused and training and playing well. The club is built on strong traditions and the future looks bright. Wasps would not have attracted me, Dai Young or the calibre of players they have if they were not heading in the right direction. I believe we are in safe hands and the owner is not about to just walk away. He will ensure that the right people are entrusted with the future of the club.
Next for me is a full week of training and hopefully I'll be up for selection and play some sort of role against Worcester. I can't wait.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Steve Thompson will be writing direct from the England camp for ESPNscrum each week during the 2011 Rugby World Cup.