London Wasps' resurgence this season is something akin to a rugby miracle. The difference in their play between last season and this one is stark; the statistics prove as much. In 22 games last season, they won just six games, scoring 30 tries in the process. This was enough to keep them in the Premiership by the skin of their teeth.
This season, they sit comfortably in fourth with 45 points from the 15 games played so far. They are also second in the tries and points scored stakes, behind only league leaders and incumbent champions Harlequins.
There are several reasons for the newfound resilience running through this team. One of, if not the, most important is the resolution of the off-field issues that plagued the club last season. A consortium, including ex-players Ken Moss and Mark Rigby, took over in September, and haven't looked back since.
Last season it was well reported that former owner Steve Hayes was looking to sell; as such he wasn't going to go out of his way to improve things. Worrying about the future of your club is not going to help you as a player. Now, though, things are different and the new owners seem to be genuinely interested in taking the club forwards in every sense of the word. It gives the players on the pitch a huge bout of confidence, and that has been reflected in their performances.
Of course, resolving off-field matters is all well and good but it is ultimately down to the players on the pitch. And Wasps seem to have found a perfect blend between exciting young talent and the kind of gnarled, experienced old-pros that all great teams contain.
Into the first category can go the likes of Christian Wade, Billy Vunipola, Elliot Daly and, although he is slightly more experienced, Joe Simpson. In Wade they have a finisher of genuine world-class quality - some of the tries he has scored this season can be described as little other than breathtaking. He may not be the biggest but that never stopped the likes of Jason Robinson or Shane Williams, and it is surely only a matter of time before his talents are rewarded on the international stage.
Vunipola is leaving at the end of the season but for the time being he will continue to play an important role from the base of the scrum, with barnstorming bursts consistently seeing Wasps over the gain-line. Elliot Daly has the kind of quick feet and violent acceleration that will always strike fear into the hearts of defenses. And Joe Simpson, who is a relative stalwart compared to the others mentioned so far, is probably the most dangerous scrum-half in the country in terms of attack. He can count himself unlucky not to have been given more of an opportunity with the national side. There are more, but not enough room to mention them all here.
Then there are the old-stagers. Marco Wentzel has been at the club for a season and a half now, and is the heartbeat of the side. Stephen Jones has brought some much-needed structure and stability to the fly-half role as well as a dependable boot. Andrea Masi is one of the more underrated players in the Premiership and indeed the Six Nations; if you need a man to get you out of a tight spot, he is it. England internationals Tom Palmer and James Haskell have returned to the club and brought with them bags of experience.
So things are looking up for the men from Wycombe. The rest of their season is not full of banana-skin fixtures - probably the trip to play the Tigers at Welford Road is the only one they would not expect to be winning and they are yet to lose at Adams Park, which has become somewhat of a fortress. With their future off the field seemingly taken care of, there is no reason this current crop of players can't restore a once-great club to its former glories.
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- London Wasps