New-look Wasps grit teeth for daunting start to the season

Rob Miller is one of Wasps' big summer signings

Rob Miller is one of Wasps' big summer signings

First published in Sport by

WASPS signed off last season saying they wanted to improve their squad by up to 30 per cent during the summer.

They resume hostilities again on Saturday against Saracens looking substantially stronger on paper, but only time will tell if their improvements are enough.

In such a competitive league, improving year on year isn’t enough.

To make progress you need to improve faster than your rivals and director of rugby Dai Young admits it’s impossible to know for sure at this stage.

Brad Davies, Rob Miller, James Gaskell, Lorenzo Cittadini and Ruaridh Jackson are the headliners from a busy summer of recruitment, while behind them the youthful Alex Lozowski, Thomas Young and Buster Lawrence could all make names for themselves.

Director of rugby Dai Young said: “If you look where we finished last season and where we want to finish this season, that is comfortably in the top six, we need about a 25 per cent improvement.

That’s how I based it but only time will tell if we’ve improved our squad by 30 per cent.

“We’ve certainly improved it but it’s hard to put percentages on it.”

Wasps were seventh last season, but they were eight points behind sixth-placed Sale and Sale were a further ten points adrift of Bath, in fifth.

That’s 18 points to the top five, or four and a bit wins.

Young said: “We’ve improved every season with small steps.

“There are no small steps left. To get into the top six it’s only one position, but it’s as much as 12-14 points.

“That’s at least a 25 per cent improvement on last season.”

With that in mind, and despite their robust recruiting, it’s clear why Young believes the top four is still out of reach.

He said: “I don’t think we’re a top four team. We’d need a lot of things to go our way.

“Historically, over the last five or six years the top four have been the top four.

“To break into that is certainly a challenge for the rest of us and things would certainly have to go very much our way.

“It’s realistic for us to be talking about fifth and sixth, but there’s probably four or five other teams thinking that.”

Tomorrow will be their first chance to gauge their progress.

Two pre-season wins offered an small insight into their development, and the power of their revamped pack was evident in a training game against Esher last Wednesday.

But warm ups are exactly that and Wasps’ fans will be interested to see how their new team copes with Saracens, the most powerful outfit in the country in recent seasons, when it really matters.

After that the games come thick and fast with six Premiership matches in successive weekends, including daunting clashes with Northampton, Harlequins and Bath.

If they’re not slightly punch drunk after that little run, the middle fortnight in October is sure to do the trick.

Leinster away and Harelquins at home in the European Rugby Cup complete the most taxing start to a season the club will have faced in many seasons.

Come through that maelstrom though, and the black and golds will really start to feel like they belong again.

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