By wombles222
August 30 2018

At last! At long long last! It’s a funny old thing, but as much as I love summer with the sounds of leather on willow, the long warm, sunny evenings spent with a refreshing drink, listening to bird song, whilst enjoying the aroma of burnt meat on barbeques, weekends remain rather empty and the working week missing that extra element of excitement that rugby can bring. So as the evenings draw ever inward, the thermometer lowers and the leaves and plants start to hint at the wonderful colours only they can provide in their yearly autumnal display, once again the rugby season opens its doors for us in all our varied team colours to pour excitedly through, with hopes afresh, slates wiped clean and throats prepared once more to vociferously vocalise our support to our lads in black and gold, allez allez allez indeed!

              So where has this seasons newly installed Gallagher computer thrown us to in round one? This term Sixways stadium against Worcester Warriors is our first hurdle, with battle set to commence at 3pm Saturday 1st September. Its Iconic East stand will greet travellers as they arrive to the city from the M5 autobahn where excitement from both home and away supporters will be as palpable as the heavy feeling you are bound to get in your stomach after enjoying an overpriced stadium provided burger. Fortunes for both our hosts and ourselves on opening round weekend has been a rather mixed bag over the last 9 seasons, albeit Worcester were battling it out in two of these years after relegation to the English Rugby Championship. However, we have a rather unimpressive 25% away win success rate on opening weekend, and for us Waspies it is poor reading when you compare it to Worcester’s 66% win ratio when getting out the starting gate on a home track. And the track will be part of the issue! Whatever the future research shows about these artificial surfaces and their impacts on the knees and ankles of professional rugby players, one cannot ignore that the organic rubber crumbed surface does hold the boot and stabilise the scrum. Yet is this sort of surface ideal for playing rugby on? Well that is for future debate and beyond the scope of a pre-match preview, but I will plant my flag here and say that this game was founded on grass and mud and the beautiful intricacies and challenges that this surface can provide whether it is firm and green or wet and muddy provides greater intrigue and twists than a Sherlock Holmes case.

              Talking about intrigue, what will chapter one provide in Wasps and Worcester’s own adventure? Worcester are many peoples and pundits favourites to be falling through the trap door for the third time in ten terms come seasons end, indeed the betting odds from a well known betting site that likes to name itself on the amount of days in the modern Gregorian calendar has them solidly 12th with a 200/1 chance of lifting the newly named Gallagher trophy come finals day at HQ, and with their longest ever winning streak being 4 games, whilst conversely having experienced a losing run of 22 games in their history annals it is hard to argue against those odds. Wasps however are placed in a strong position of 3rd favourites, with every £2 of your hard earned cash giving you an £11 return. Yes Exeter and Sarries are the bookies expected title winners, and I am sure that other teams such as Leicester and possibly Gloucester, Bath and Newcastle may have something to say about that, but it does paint a picture of what both teams and squads are expected to achieve.         This though is opening round day, and hope springs eternal, and when a team can boast players in their ranks the likes of Nick Schonert, Ben Te’o, Francois Hougaard, the underrated Chris Pennell and GJ Van Velze then the challenge faced becomes that little bit harder. Yet we ourselves have one of the strongest looking squads in the premiership, Nizzam signing is a blessing, and I feel much needed as it gives a different focus to our back row. Much of the talk is whether Carr or Hughes should have the 8 jersey, however when you have 2 players who are so effective for different reasons, why worry? There will be matches that need Hughes raw power and gain line bulldozer approach, yet conversely the speed, agility and handling of Carr will answer challenges that Hughes may not, this is a case of complimentary rather than competition. Sopoanga and Shields are world class, and will only serve to strengthen, but they are not in the equation this week. Therefore the challenge is how our improving forwards link with the stellar backs, who are shorn of Gloucester departed Cipriani and now the experience and talent of Jimmy Gopperth with his ACL rupture taking him out for most of this season. Can Gabi Lovabalavu or Juan de Jongh step into the midfield role, or will Ex Jersey and Bedford Blue Michael Le Bourgeois take the next step and translate his Championship form into Premiership success? New signing Searle is no stranger to premiership rugby with his time at Bristol, however it is how he develops his half back relationship with Simpson and Robson that will be key! Or will we be going with the under-rated Miller, a utility back who can do a job at 10 when asked to. Yet what we must see is an evolution, an evolution of our defensive strength with a “thou shall not pass” attitude and structure that actually does what it says on the tin. Can our forwards get some more power and grunt that every backline needs to work from. Of course can our attack evolve again in a game where if you stand still tactically, you will be caught. Many questions need to be answered, and although there are no easy games playing a team that we have a 67% success rate against is not a bad place to start answering them.

              Yet let us be thankful that silly season is over, the season of highs and lows is just about to begin! The writer has just laid fresh parchment down and dipped his Quill into the ink pot in preparation to write the first chapter of the 2018/2019 season, and that celebration and excitement, twists and turns will be resounding up and down this green and pleasant land in a story yet to be written. But when the final page is written and Quill laid aside we can be certain that the book will close on a tale of adventure and intrigue that would make Arthur Conan Doyle proud! I look forward to sharing this journey, our thoughts, our hopes, our fears and maybe a beer or two with you all!

And Remember!...



Once a Wasp ALWAYS a Wasp.