Adam Hathaway, rugby correspondent of The People, reports that Wasps are missing a Wallaby more than they thought they would and is loading his revolver to go into battle about Premiership kick-off times.
Wasps’ director of rugby Dai Young gives it to you straight more than most and in the wake of his team’s 25-9 defeat to Bath at the Ricoh Arena on Sunday he fronted up yet again. He talked through his teams shortcoming, refused to blame the injury list and said there one or two good things to take out of the game.
What he didn’t say, though, was that he might just be missing an Aussie.
Last year’s Premiership finalists had just lost their third league game on the spin and this reverse was the second in a row in Coventry. Until they were on the wrong end of a 24-21 score line to Harlequins a fortnight ago, at the former fortress, they had been unbeaten in 20 domestic games there.
And it doesn’t get any easier. Wasps have Saracens away next up and Ulster away in the Champions Cup – they could conceivably lose five on the bounce – and how they could do with a dose of Kurtley.
On Sunday the club were celebrating their 150th anniversary and the great and good of former players were at the stadium. Dean Ryan, Rob Andrew, Roger Uttley, Kenny Logan and Fraser Waters were all on the pitch to remind the fans of the glory days – some big-hitters there – and the greatest Wasp of the lot, Lawrence Dallaglio, was in the commentary box.
But it was a grim, rainy day with no attacking rugby on show – a bit like the Leicester game against Exeter the day before.
It should have been a party for Wasps but they had no-one to crack open the bubbly as the bloke who did most of it last year, once he had got fit, was having a kissing-your-sister moment in Bloemfontein as the Wallabies drew 27-27 with the Springboks on Saturday.
Young had a few players missing – which club hasn’t? But the loss of Dan Robson, Danny Cipriani, Tommy Taylor, James Gaskell, Alex Rieder, Guy Thompson, Willie le Roux and the rest would give any DoR a decent cop-out but Young refused to go down that route.
Losing Nathan Hughes, Paul Doran-Jones and Brendan Macken during the game probably didn’t do much for Young’s mood either but he cheerfully told he was no doctor and although Hughes’ knock was a dead leg it probably meant the No.8 would be out for three months. He did it with a smile but that is way things are running for Wasps at the moment.
He also told us that blaming injuries was a weak excuse and he was having none of it.
The Wasps medical room must look like something out of MASH at the moment, without the moonshine, but Wasps needed a point of difference on Sunday. They had more of the pill than a hippie chick in the 1970s but couldn’t make it count.
Bath won the game by tackling themselves to a standstill – they had to because Wasps had the ball most of the time – with Sam Underhill and Zach Mercer making 44 tackles between them. Wasps couldn’t find a way through and that is mainly because they didn’t have Kurtley Beale.
You remember the bloke. Had his moments away from the game but he could tear up defences for fun and Wasps are missing his spark.
Wasps had the boy band back line last season and were running in tries for fun – but Beale was the Gary Barlow figure who kept it all together and he is not about now. Maybe Wasps should ask him for an encore – he had the X-Factor in spades.
He might have had his share of scrapes off the field but Beale could play all right and rugby’s newest Midlanders are missing him big time.
Whatever Wasps were paying the Wallaby last year he was worth it. He could play 10, 12, 13 and 15 and he had the keys to unpick most defences.
But when he went back to Australia to pick up where he left off in his Test career ahead of the next World Cup he was never replaced. He was on big Aussie dollars, for sure, and with increasing player salaries elsewhere in the squad Wasps did not get another marquee player in.
With Cipriani out for the foreseeable Wasps could do with a bit of the unexpected. Beale gave them that last season and they miss him more than they would ever have expected.
Young did reveal that he was in the market for another No.10 to take the strain off Jimmy Gopperth but he has more pressing concerns. He has only got two hookers on the books and with Ashley Johnson also used in the back row, with Tom Cruse starting on Sunday, that is not going to last him until January when Taylor is expected to come back.
Someone, for sure, will get pranged and that will leave Wasps in strife on the front row front so a Fancy Dan fly-half might not be top of the agenda.
There were some pretty glum fans in black and gold at Coventry Arena station waiting to get the 6.25 out of there.
For any Wasps followers it is not all doom and gloom. Just cast your mind back a few years when the club were on the verge of going to the wall and Young was paying for tape out of his pocket to keep the players’ bodies together.
They racked up another 15,000-plus crowd on Sunday and the club shop was doing a roaring trade knocking out copies of their new glossy history.
Written by Marcus Williams, formerly a great desk man on The Times, Barney Burnham, a walking encyclopaedia of all things Waspish and Duncan Jones, another club expert, the book details every cough and spit since 1867.
The tome reveals the club have played at 21 grounds since they were formed in a boozer back in the day and have won European Cups, Premiership titles and the rest of the pots on offer and most of them were lifted by Big Lol.
But they have won nish since 2008 and it is starting to grate. New ground but no need for a new trophy cabinet.
As Young said: “Confidence is a factor. The only way you get that back is by starting to put performances together. We are not penetrating the gain line and we are playing in the wrong areas. We didn’t look like scoring too many times.
““We were looking for some penetration to stretch their defence, but that was part of our game that we just didn’t get going – we didn’t get the penetration that we would like.
“It’s just not clicking for us at the moment but there’s no magic cure, you just have to work harder and get it right.”
Last year, with Beale pulling the strings, they had more confidence than Boris Johnson at a Tory Party conference. So there is a magic cure.
But the way they are going they won’t be going anywhere near Twickenham come May – unless they can find another Beale.
**
Anyone who woke up on Saturday morning with a hangover, but looking forward to a full weekend of Premiership Rugby, would have been in for a shock over their hair of the dog pint and full English.
The fifth round of the domestic campaign was already half done.
On Friday night Worcester entertained Saracens, Newcastle beat London Irish and Sale gave Gloucester an almighty chinning.
The Newcastle game was on the goggle box but what about the lads and lasses who actually attend these matches?
We have been here before, we will be there again but it is time to end this madness.
Sale complain they have competition from Manchester City and Manchester United for Saturday fans so they choose to play their games on a Friday. Result? An attendance of 5,123 on Friday.
Worcester like a Friday night game and the visit of the European champions attracted just over 7,500 people and Falcons had 7,650 at Kingston Park for their game with the Exiles.
But Friday night rugby just does not wash. Have you tried getting out of Sixways or the AJ Bell Stadium, in Salford, on a Friday night?
Traffic is mother of all nightmares, most normal people have something called work to get to the ground from and frankly a snatched pint before a 7.45pm kick-off and a slog home is not the best way to kick off the weekend. And we get paid for it – the punters have to shell out their hard-earned.
So, come the revolution brothers and sisters, when RugbySpy lines all the suits up against the wall and taps them on the temple with a revolver, we will resolve the spreading weekend fixture problem.
One Premiership game on a Friday for the TV companies, four on Saturday, with one at 4.30 if the goggle box merchants need to show two games, and one on a Sunday – at 2pm. Not 3pm, and definitely not 5.30pm, as some of the up-coming European fixtures are – but 2pm.
That gives people who actually get off their backsides and go to the game time to watch, time to have a few scoops, time to get home and time to get ready for work. Go on clubs and Premiership Rugby – make the fans’ day.
It won’t happen.