Wasps prop: We can't hold our punches anymore

Jake Cooper-Woolley

Jake Cooper-Woolley

First published in Sport by

FRONT row forwards don’t go in for sugar-coating, and prop Jake Cooper-Woolley offered a frank and frankly brutal assessment of where Wasps have gone wrong in the last month.

The black and golds were flirting with the top four after successive wins against Newcastle and Exeter around the New Year.

A top-six finish was beginning to look like a consolation prize at that stage, but since then the wheels have come off with five defeats in a row, four of them in the Premiership.

Director of rugby Dai Young suggested it was a mindset issue and Cooper-Woolley is not inclined to disagree.

He said: “There comes a point when you can’t tell yourself things are better than they are, saying we nearly did it.

“We can’t hold our punches any more. As players we need to be really honest with each other.

“Maybe we take some games for granted and don’t have the ruthless edge like Leicester do.

“No disrespect to Worcester, but they’ll look at Worcester at home as five points.

“It’s difficult to build that atmosphere with a lot of new guys and because we’re competing in games, maybe we think that is good enough.

“But we need to believe we’re the real deal. There are guys here that are new to this level of rugby, like myself, who are learning every week, but we do have the guys on the field to steer the ship.”

In recent weeks, Wasps’ performances have fluctuated according to their opponents. They’ve played well enough to just lose against whoever they’ve been up against – be it Bath away or London Irish at home.

The LV=Cup has offered the players a chance to take stock and after a week off, they’ve come back with renewed vigour.

Cooper-Woolley said: “We’re the first to admit the last five games haven’t been good enough, especially London Irish and Sale at home. They’re games we’d expect to win.

“But we’ve had a week off and a bit of time to rest up, and I think we needed it.

“A lot of the guys had played week in, week out for ten or 12 weeks and we’d picked up a lot of injuries.

“And we’d been on a bad run, lost five in a row, and we needed to get our heads away from rugby for a while.”

The players were back in on Monday and after delivering a few hard truths says they returned to the training paddock with the bit between their teeth again.

He said: “We came back on Monday and had a no holds barred meeting. We sat down and said, as players, it’s not been good enough.

“The coaches have done everything they can but as players we need to demand more from each other.

“We’ve been really honest. We’re just killing ourselves with our mistakes; if everyone makes one mistake that's 15 in a game and you’re not going to win games doing that.

“We’re underperforming, we know that, but we feel it’s problems we can fix.”

The first test will be Worcester away next Friday, but Wasps will also probably have to win at either Leicester or Northampton to reel in Sale in their remaining six Premiership matches.

Cooper-Woolley said: “We don’t feel like we need to be concerned with who we’re playing. We need to get our own house in order, drive our own ambitions and standards.

“The top six is still a massive target and we haven’t written it off.”

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