Ibanez to skipper Wasps
August 4, 2008

London Wasps have announced that hooker Raphael Ibanez has been named new club captain for the 2008/09 season.

The former captain of France, and the worlds most capped international hooker with 98 appearances for Les Blues, arrived at the club in 2005 and has since helped Wasps to honours in the Powergen Cup in 2006, Heineken Cup in 2007 and Guinness Premiership last May.

Making 17 appearances with the Guinness Premiership winning side in 2007/08, bringing his club total to 60 and points total to 65, the 35 year old Frenchman reaffirmed his commitment to Wasps last season, extending his contract to remain with the club until the close of 2008/09.

A proven leader, the Ibanez role of honour is certainly an impressive one. With three Rugby World Cups, two as captain, and four Six Nations winners' medals including two Grand Slams, with France, Ibanez called time on his international career following the 2007 Rugby World Cup, turning all attention to the club he calls his 'second family'. Eager to invest not only in the Wasps of today but also tomorrow, Ibanez will in addition to his captaincy and playing duties, work as part of the London Wasps Academy coaching team this season, helping to guide Wasps' younger forwards in their development.

Regarded as one of the best front row players in the game, Ibanez is highly respected by all his peers, described by Head Coach, Shaun Edwards as one of the most popular signings ever made by the club - factors which allowed Ian McGeechan an easy path to his captaincy decision for 2008/09.

"Raf is one of the nicest, most committed rugby players I have ever come across; a very genuine person who I would definitely call a friend as well as a colleague. He has been an immense captain for France throughout his international career and one of the great players among the Wasps squad throughout the last three seasons. The decision to appoint him as club captain was an easy one - what Raf has achieved, his character and the way he operates is first class and there is no more deserved a man for the job.

"With the departure of Lawrence Dallaglio, there are of course some big boots to fill but Raf is one of the most highly regarded players in the professional game who so easily commands the respect of all those around him. The squad is delighted by the news of his captaincy and I am confident as we look ahead to next season with him at the helm.

"2008/09 looks set to be a season of challenge for the Premiership clubs with the introduction of the ELVs and the new RFU agreement which will see us without so many of our key players. However, I can think of no better man to lead the side through this season of change than Raf. The fact that he is the world's most capped hooker reflects his commitment and durability, particularly as he has played throughout that time in the uncompromising environment of the front row.

"On a personal note I would also like to thank Raf for what he has brought to the game as a person and a player. People like him, are the reasons why we coach - you get so much back and they give you that special feeling that it's good to be a coach. He was actually my first ever signing for Wasps and he has proved himself to be a tremendous asset to the team since his arrival in 2005 and I know that he will continue to deliver as he takes the team into their next chapter in the history books."

On the announcement Ibanez was similarly quick to praise McGeechan and his coaching set up for their continued support as he prepares for his new role.

"When our coaching staff announced they had made their decision in naming me as Wasps captain, I felt really honoured. Working with Ian McGeechan and Shaun Edwards and all of the coaching staff at Wasps has been a fantastic experience for me. This club is much more than just rugby, it is family, and I am delighted and very privileged to take the role of club captain.

"When Ian spoke to me about the captaincy my first thought went to Lawrence Dallaglio. He's a great leader and an absolute legend of this game. Nobody will ever replace him - ever, and for me it has been a great honour to play both alongside him at Wasps and against him in the international arena. It is with his support that I take this role - he is a great friend and will continue to be even though he will no longer be at the club.

"The Wasps captaincy is probably one of the biggest challenges of my career so far. This year coming is pretty special for Wasps as the Guinness Premiership champions we will want to keep hold of our silverware and pick up even more honours. We have a fantastic squad filled with lots of young and exciting talent and I am very proud to lead this group of players.

"2008/09 will also be a very special year for our international players, competing for places for the Lions Tour, which is a goal many of my teammates can reach. My priority will be to make sure everyone delivers for the club first. I want us to keep winning and as the captain it is my job to ensure we stay focused.

"I am very proud to be a Wasp and I am looking forward to the challenge of next season. To be a part of this club and to work with some of the best players and coaches in the game is an honour. We are very lucky to have some fantastic fans who have always shown me and the team fantastic support which I hope will continue as we get ready for another tough season."

Ibanez will make his non competitive debut as captain when the squad travel to Dax, his home town and the first side he played rugby with, on the 14th August for Wasps first pre season friendly fixture. From there the side will prepare for the Middlesex Sevens on the 16th August before their pre season clash with Edinburgh at Murrayfield on the 23 August and Llanelli Scarlets at Adams Park on the 29 August.

© Scrum.com

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