WASPS new skills coach John McCloskey admits he was a bit star-struck when he first arrived at Wasps on a two-day coaching mission last season.

The primary school teacher from Belfast met the then reigning English champions in January as they prepared for a Heineken Cup clash with Leinster.

The game was billed as the Clash of the Capitals and would be played at Twickenham in front of more than 30,000 fans.

McCloskey was called in as an emergency firefighter. He had just two days to iron out a debilitating flaw under the high ball.

He said: “The first time I was there I remember looking out and seeing Ibanez, Betsen, Lewsey, Vickery, Shaw, Cipriani, Sackey.

“These are people I was used to seeing on television and in magazines and suddenly I was there talking to them. I suppose I was a bit star-struck. But I can learn as much from talented players like that as they can from me.

“It’s a team effort. You develop together and move forwards.”

After McCloskey’s whistle-stop visit, Wasps turned around a 41-11 hammering a few months earlier to beat the Irish champions.

It was a memorable first impression.

Director of rugby Tony Hanks said: “We initially got John over to address the aerial part of the game and to give our players a bit more confidence in that department.

“But we found we used him much more widely than that.”

So when a post-season audit of the players revealed a desire to have full-time skills coach on board, Wasps knew exactly where to turn.

Incredibly though, their prime target was reluctant.

He said: “You do have reservations, but Shaun [Edwards, head coach] is a very inspiring character and when you talk to these people you become enthused.

“They were more interested in what I could do than what I couldn’t do, and it’s a great honour when a club like Wasps come looking for you.

“And one thing we all have in common is we want to win.”

McCloskey needed a bit of convincing because his route to Adams Park is not a typical one.

His most notable coaching successes have come in Gaelic Football, where he helped coach Armagh to the All-Ireland title in 2002 plus four provincial titles and a National League title.

His cv also includes NFL and Aussie Rules.

He said: “I’ve been around a number of different sports growing up. I’ve always believed you have to move outside your sport and comfort zone if you want to improve. Gaelic Football has been my main coaching focus, but I’ve been around English and Irish union training camps.

“I’ve also gone to Australia and America and common themes running through all these sports are commitment, pursuit of excellence and hunger to succeed.

“When you get down to the technical aspects of it they do differ, but kicking, catching, finding space and spatial awareness are in all these sports.”

Hanks has also worked across different codes and rugby league legend Edwards has been to Ireland to pick up tips from Gaelic Football.

In McCloskey, Wasps appear to have recruited someone equally keen to take the best of everything.

McCloskey said: “I’m well aware of the pressure, I’ve been around professional sport before. But in life we are all judged by our results.

“I’m a bit nervous about starting. It’s challenging, but I’m excited.”