ALL being well, Christian Wade would have started on the right wing for Wasps against Saracens on Saturday.
Injury ended his season, but in his stead came another homegrown talent and Tom Howe didn’t do a bad impersonation of the England and Lions winger.
It wasn’t Howe’s Wasps’ debut – that came in last season’s LV=Cup at Welford Road– but that competition is a million miles away from facing Saracens in the full-blooded fury that is the Aviva Premiership.
The leaders and favourites arrived with big guns blazing, but Howe, who grew up in Flackwell Heath before moving Marlow, was unfazed.
His first meaningful contribution was to step inside Neil de Kock and slam into international full back Alex Goode.
At the start of the second half, just when his team needed it, he raised the volume inside Adams Park by sprinting 60m to snare David Strettle before his opposite number could get his kick away.
And shortly afterwards came the moment all debutants dream of; he collected Andy Goode’s miss pass before racing over in corner in front of the Dream Stand, where his parents were watching.
He said: “I suppose you could almost call it a dream debut. Performance-wise I was very happy with how I did.
“Going back to Saracens in November in the LV=Cup I was unfortunate not to get that last minute try.
“So to actually put it down this time was a bonus. It was an incredible feeling “My mum was sitting in the Dream Stand to the right so after I got the try I tried to throw the ball towards her. I don’t know if she got it but I was aiming for her.
“I actually had quite a few people here. My mum and dad, my aunty, a few friends, my brother and his mates, mates from my old school, and Andrew Cartwright, who was my first rugby coach at Beaconsfield when I was four, “I saw him at the end and he congratulated me. It turned out to be a good day to come down.”
Howe and fellow winger Jonah Holmes were something of an enforced gamble by director of rugby Dai Young.
With Wade, Tom Varndell, Josh Bassett and Will Helu injured and James Short unable to play against his home club, Young had to go with players who are largely untried and untested.
He said: “Tommy Howe did really well, especially. He’s only a young kid but to get a try on his debut must be excellent for him and I don’t think he put a foot wrong.
“Jonah scored a good try in the first half and he’ll be a little bit disappointed he didn’t score in the second half.
“He’s been outstanding for Leeds so he probably feels like that’s one that got away. But for two young men, they did outstandingly well against quality opposition.”
However, after Saturday, both players will feel they’ve done enough to keep the shirts a little longer.
England U18 player Howe said: “Jonah and I had big shoes to fill and I think we both did a good job.
“I’ve always had good games against Saracens and have a good record against them going back to school and U15s and U18s so I was fairly confident.
“Pushing for a starting place now would be brilliant and that’s what I’m going to aim to do.
“We’ve got a few more Premiership games left and hopefully I’ll see my name on the teamsheet in the coming weeks.”