Tom Rees Column
Wasps can thrive without dynamic duo
February 25, 2010
Wasps duo Danny Cipriani and Paul Sackey will be lost to the London social scene come the end of the season © Getty Images
As we find ourselves in the middle of the Six Nations, I'm going to have another stab at some predictions. Wales will be beat France - fulfilling two of my previous calls from my last entry - England will beat Ireland at Twickenham, and…. and I'm going to get back on the fence over Italy vs Scotland.
Wales have certainly taken their time to find the spark to ignite their tournament, but the way they took their chances in the final minutes against Scotland will fill them with the confidence they'll need against the French. Wales are the team that can come closest to matching France for attacking adventure and in front of their home crowd, with a pack that needs to reassert itself, I think they'll just edge what will be the game of the championship.
Both England and Ireland will be disappointed after their games in the last round. Against Italy, had England scored early, drawn confidence from it and taken more chances thereafter, things could have been very different. Instead, it got bogged down into a scrappy kicking game. Ireland on the other hand ran into a French side that seemed able to do no wrong. I think that England's desire to stay in the hunt and Ireland's hunger to get back to winning ways sets up a very tight affair, with, I think, England just edging it.
I know I said that the manner of England's performance against Italy would show if they were serious contenders but, like most armchair pundits, I'm going to change my tune, hope results follow and that no-one notices. The reason I'm collecting splinters again over Italy against Scotland is that, whilst Scotland were the better side against Wales and probably deserved to win, I can't help but feel that the Italians will continue to make things very difficult and too close for me to call.
Back to the domestic game, where over the last few weeks there have been many stories on player contracts as clubs look to sort their playing staff for next season. Recently both Paul Sackey and Danny Cipriani have announced they will be leaving Wasps at the end of the season. Paul is considering when to end his playing career, and the lucrative offers that came his way from France would be very hard to resist regardless of his age, and Danny has taken a great opportunity to experience Super 15 rugby with a spell at the Melbourne Rebels.
This is of course disappointing, as both are world-class players, but while they will be missed when they leave I don't fear for the club's future. Over the last few years, as is now the nature of the professional game, players have moved on from Wasps and each year quality replacements are brought in or developed from within the club's academy. The most important thing now though is that there is still a large amount of rugby to be played this season and everyone will be doing their utmost to ensure those leaving, finish their time at Wasps on a winning note.
Last week this was plain to see as the boys put in a huge effort to beat Saracens and produce, what Shaun Edwards described as, one of the best defensive performances he's been involved with. When you see a score line of 9-0 I will forgive you for thinking it would have been a dire to watch, but this was an enthralling game, that for me was just as entertaining in its way as the 100 point try-fest recently seen in the Super 14. There was enterprising attack, at times from anywhere on the pitch, exceptional defence, and the tight score meant that things were always in the balance. There were a couple of heart-stopping moments, notably when Tom Varndell decided to try and run through the Saracens back row under his own posts - but if Shaun's glare isn't enough to make him think differently next time, his bruised ribs should be.
This week it's a trip away to Leeds and a chance for us to make up for the defeat they inflicted upon us at Adams Park earlier in the season. This will be no easy task as Leeds have continued to show what they are capable of, most recently with another away win at Sale, and whilst they are bottom of the Premiership, it's only by a point, and a team that is fighting for survival is a very dangerous one.
On a personal level I've continued with the advanced stages of my rehab, continued watching films (I recommend the Paul Newman classic The Hustler, and Moon starring Sam Rockwell) and continued growing my hair. This was born out of a bet I had with Rob Webber agreeing not to cut it until I returned to play. Unfortunately I made the bet before I knew I needed a second operation on my shoulder and now my curly locks are beginning to obstruct my vision. Part of me has grown quite fond of the mop and feels it would be a waste after so much time just to get rid of it, but being able to feel the drag from the air as I run is a concern. So by the time of my next entry to this blog, there is a chance that I might be sporting a slightly more streamlined look.