in its third year the London Wasps Apprenticeship and it continues to go from strength to strength. This year the players will compete in the inaugural Apprenticeship League, which sees Wasps Apprentices compete against their Guinness Premiership piers in a Northern and Southern League - with the winners of each division going through to compete for the title.
Over the course of the three years the programme has also seen the introduction of new fixtures including traditional rugby schools including Millfield, as well as the high profile Super 16’s Festival. As such, there is certainly a challenging year ahead - ideal for the development of our young talent as our apprentices pit themselves against the best young rugby players in the country.
As well as the action on pitch, there have been some developments behind the scenes within the Apprenticeship. Chris Lloyd, who has led and managed the AASE scheme since its inception, has moved to the role of Assistant Academy Manager, following the departure of Alun Powell. As well as receiving this promotion, Chris also works as the scrummaging coach with the 1st XV – a great achievement after many seasons of hard work and dedication to the club. His association with the Apprenticeship is by no means over though, as he continues to support the scheme through his Academy appointment and offers scrummaging coaching to the Apprentices.
Taking over the role of Apprenticeship Manager is Mark Lock, a product of the London Wasps Academy who enjoyed eight seasons with the club securing three Premiership titles and the European Cup at Twickenham in 2004. Reiterating the club saying ‘Once a Wasps always a Wasps’, Mark has taken the bull by the horns and quickly settled into the role – with the performances on pitch since his arrival continuing to highlight a level of excellence and continued development and improvement week on week.
As well as Chris and Mark, Remi Mobed, Wasps AASE physiotherapist for the past two seasons, has moved up to work with the 1st XV on a full time basis. Huge congratulations go to him on this next step in his career and in his place we welcome Helen O’Leary who has settled in well and continued the good work in terms of our APE (Athletic performance Enhancement) programme.
On behalf of the club congratulations and sincere gratitude go to both Chris and Remi on their promotions which once again highlight the quality of the resources available to the apprentices and the benefits of being based at the club.
Wasps are across the board known as notoriously slow starters and it appears that the apprentices are no exception to this rule. Despite a good pre-season festival in Truro which saw the boys in black and gold beat teams from Millfield and Colton’s, the league season began with a disappointing display away at Filton College (Bristol Apprentices). Though the parity up front was evident, the lack of cohesiveness was exploited by a very good Filton team, who capitalised on their opportunities to run out worthy winners.
The next fixture saw Truro College (South West England Rugby Academy) travel to Twyford Avenue and a much improved performance saw Wasps secure a bonus point victory, as players began to develop an understanding of each others play and team patterns. This though turned to frustration the following week as Ivybridge (SWERA) claimed a single point victory in a game that was Wasps for the taking. This fixture provided a valuable lesson in the development process though, as winning tight games is a masterful skill, and since this loss the team have been on an upward curve in terms of skill development and game management.
The results have followed which is a bonus but the most important thing is that players are visibly improving and displaying greater technical and tactical development. The next two friendly games saw a fifty point win against Henley and a forty point win against Oakland’s (Saracens Apprentices). This was followed by a stern test in a friendly against Hartpury College (Gloucester Apprentices) and the lessons against Ivybrige were well learned as Wasps won by five points and closed out a tight game with a great degree of maturity.
Returning to the league the apprentices then travelled to Exeter where excellent play saw a convincing bonus point win, without conceding. On the back of this great display, Wasps then headed off to Broadstreet to take part in the Super 16’s festival, which sees many of the top schools in England and Wales compete against one another. A successful outing for the apprentices this highlighted great skill amongst the side who withstood the pressures of competition to top a tough group including Myerscough, Hartpury and Neath Port Talbot (Ospreys) before heading into the second day of the main competition.
The second day started slowly as Wasps went down 5-3 to Colston’s which meant that making the final was unlikely – however great determination was shown to win the remaining two fixtures against Bromsgrove School as well as Filton, seeking revenge for the seasons opening defeat.
Next on the cards was another trip to Truro - a ten hour round trip journey made more tolerable by being on the right side of the scoreboard! This game demonstrated once more how the players continue to learn to respond to situations, think for themselves and making good decisions based on the information in front of them.
Trailing at half-time 26-15, having failed to take advantage of the wind and the slope, a precise territory game plan was required as well as exceptional discipline in order not to give up cheap yardage. The boys did this exceptionally well to turn around the deficit and run out winners by 37-26 - playing with control and freedom at the appropriate times. Beating a team twice, who are currently finalists in the Daily Mail Cup, is an indicator of the standard of rugby that the league exposes the boys to on a weekly basis and of the great development process in place as part of the scheme.
After the Christmas break it was back to league action and the early season defeat to Filton College (Bristol Apprentices) was reversed as Wasps won a physical game 20-13. This was an excellent result and demonstrated the progress that has been made over the season. It was more impressive as a number of second year apprentices were no longer available as they went out to gain experience with National League clubs as part of their development plan.
Next on the cards was a hard trek to Somerset where a Millfield Team, who have had an excellent season, proved too good on the day and ran out deserved winners but again a valuable experience for the young apprentices. Another away trip to Leeds followed where Prince Henry’s Grammar School (Leeds Apprentices) were the opponents. On a heavy pitch Wasps failed to play the conditions well in the 1st half as they tried to play too much rugby from deep. This though was rectified after the break as a more territory based approach provided field position to score a couple of well worked tries and run out 18 – 12 winners.
Wasps then played Henley College again and notched up 52 unanswered points playing an exciting brand of rugby. Richmond College (Harlequins Apprentices) were next to visit Twyford Avenue and were on the receiving end of a 93 – 0 hammering as the young Wasps ran in tries at will. The last league game was the return fixture at Ivybridge (SWERA) and on a water laden pitch in between hailstorms the young Wasps pack took on a much bigger Ivybridge eight in a 70 minute arm wrestle. The Devon side were just too heavy on the day and despite some excellent defence sheer weight prove the difference as they claimed a 17 – 9 victory.
With the league programme now complete, Wasps apprentices wait to see who their opponents will be in the play off to finish 3rd in this national competition. It looks likely that Leeds, currently 2nd in the Northern League, will be the opponents.
As mentioned above, some of the 2nd year apprentices have been playing at National League Clubs since Christmas with some success. Young props Ant Kent and Brett Williams have been getting some game time with London Scottish and Rosslyn Park respectively, with Ant also being selected for Scotland U19’s. Promising fly half Craig Ratford has been at Barking and has put in a number of assured performances that have seen them move to safety in National 3 South.
This has been a highly successful season so far and the improvements in the apprentice’s technical and tactical skills have been the most pleasing aspect of it. The programme continues to go from strength to strength and it will not be long before we see apprentice graduates running out in Wasps colours for the 1stXV.
If you want to become a London Wasps Apprentice then find out more here . Hurry though - the closing date for applications for 2009/10 is 30th March 2009.