Dai Young keen to play down comparisons between Wasps and Kevin Keegan's cavalier Newcastle

Tom Cary
Wasps have been thrilling to watch this season  - Rex Features

They were known as the great ‘Entertainers’ of the Premier League; fully of swashbuckling players capable of conjuring a goal out of nothing.

But that is where Dai Young, Wasps’ director of rugby, wants the comparisons with Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle United team of 1995-1996 to end.

Wasps under Young have become a force with which to be reckoned, brimming with exciting young talent, particularly in a back division that stands comparison with any in European rugby, from Danny Cipriani to Elliot Daly to Kurtley Beale to Willie Le Roux.

And having come back from the brink of extinction, establishing a new home in Coventry on a much sounder financial footing, the future is looking bright indeed.

Wasps currently sit top of the Aviva Premiership - already assured of a playoff place with four games remaining - and on Saturday face Leinster at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin for a place in the semi-finals of the European Champions Cup.

Dai Young has some tough decisions to make

Young, though, says Wasps’ capacity to entertain - they are the only team in the Premiership to have amassed over 550 points this season - will mean nothing unless they win something at the end of it. He has challenged his squad to become tougher and more streetwise.

The former Wales prop was particularly upset last weekend at the way in which his team kept letting Worcester Warriors back into the game. Although Wasps scored six tries to claim yet another winning bonus point, they conceded five in a 40-33 win.

Afterwards Young questioned whether his team had the “belly for the fight”.

“We certainly won’t go to Dublin and get a result playing like that,” he added. Asked to expand on that on Tuesday, Young explained: “That wasn’t me trying to be disrespectful to the players, that’s a simple question that they have got to answer.  I like to think I know the answer, but it is something they have got to answer.

Kevin Keegan's Newcastle ultimately came up short in the mid-1990s

“I think anyone looking around can see the points we have given up in some of our games and you wouldn’t have to be a brain surgeon to work out perhaps they are not quite on the edge in these games.”

Asked whether he felt his team nevertheless had more X-factor that any other team in Europe, Young nodded: “I think we have got plenty of X-factor, without a shadow of a doubt. We are certainly up there. [But] that quality and X-factor has to be underpinned by work rate and physicality.”

James Haskell limped off at half time of Sunday’s victory over Worcester with a dead leg, with Young revealing on Tuesday that the England flanker had also picked up “a bit of a back spasm”.

However, he said he would be “very surprised” if Haskell did not play on Saturday and insisted he was confident his team could go to the Aviva Stadium - a stadium which will hold bitter memories for Wasps’ England contingent thanks to their defeat by Ireland a fortnight ago - and get a result.

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“We went out and drew at Toulouse [in the group stages],” Young said. “We should have won at Connacht, which is a difficult place to play. So we have won in some difficult places. Last year we went and did well in Toulon. We have been to Stade Francais and won. So we have got big [away] performances in us. We won in Dublin last year, against a different [Leinster] team as we know. We are pretty confident we can do it and I know it is in those players.

“I think I have got the answer and that’s what I have said to the players: these are all big games now, we are not going to just win these games with five minutes of brilliance.

“Contrary to people’s thoughts, we certainly don’t advocate the Kevin Keegan approach to game plans - where we are happy if they score one because we will score two.”

So not another six tries to five at the weekend, then? “No. We don’t want a 6-5. [Mind you] I said on the weekend we don’t want a 30-40 but that’s what we pretty much had.”

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