There have been a number of new faces in the Wasps pack this season, especially in the front row, with the likes of Fabio Staibano, Phil Swainston and T Rhys Thomas all joining the club over the summer period.
However, there have also been a few more familiar faces who have stepped up into the limelight with Smion McIntyre starting the game against Worcester, in which the pack dominated for large parts of the game, and Zak Taulafo becoming a more regular fixture at tighthead.
Woodman says that he has been impressed by the way those guys have stepped up this year.
“It has been frustrating for them because a lot of them haven’t had as much game time as they would have wanted to. Will Taylor has had an arm injury, which has limited his involvement while Fabio and Phil have had to sit behind Zak a little bit. I think that Zak has really impressed in terms of moving from loosehead to tighthead, which is a great development for him and vice versa looking at Simon McIntyre going from tighthead to loosehead. I think that those swaps will benefit them both in the long-term. We might take a bit of heat at the moment as they continue to develop but they have both bought into it and are making real strides with their development.”
“The attitude of the other younger guys in the pack has been fantastic. Some of them are young in how much rugby they have played as well as in age so you have to take both of those things into account. What you want to do is give them as much game time as possible and when they do get a chance they have to take it with both hands. Simon started against Worcester a couple of weeks ago and he gave a good account of himself and he has probably learnt more from that 60 minutes than he has done previously throughout any training session. That’s what they have to take on board. They may not get it right every time but it’s about getting it right more times than they get it wrong.”
A regular name in the Wasps pack for a number of years now has been Tim Payne and Woodman says that a player with his experience and knowledge has been a huge help to those younger or inexperienced front row players.
“Payney has been around long enough now that if there are a young group of kids around him obviously he is going to take on that leadership role and help develop them through his experiences and through his knowledge. He is stepping up to that with those younger guys and at the same time he knows that he has to keep performing because if he doesn’t those younger guys are there waiting for a chance. That is what we are looking for from our squad, that each player is challenging the one in possession of the shirt.”
One player who Woodman gives special mention to is Tom Lindsay. Despite the arrival of experienced hooker T Rhys Thomas over the summer with 27 caps to his name, Lindsay has made a storming start to the season and has made the number two shirt his own in the Aviva Premiership so far.
“I have been very impressed with him," Woodman said.
"He has worked very hard over the summer and bulked himself up and he has come into this season much heavier. That’s not carrying excess body weight for no reason, he is a lot stronger and that has added to his confidence as well. If he is going well in the scrum and at the lineout the rest of his game will develop naturally and he has bought into that. He is a young guy but after a couple of years coming off of the bench he has really got into that role very well. And the great thing is that TR is not going to be happy with sitting on the bench. He will continue to challenge him in training sessions and in games but he will also be able to help Tom in terms of his experience and knowledge. That is the kind of balance we are striving for.”
This weekend London Wasps travel to Italy to take on Mogliano in the second round of the Amlin Challenge Cup, following the win against Newport Gwent Dragons at Adams Park last weekend.
Woodman says it is vital to go there and bring back a good win.
“We started well in this competition against Newport Gwent Dragons last week in terms of maximum points but that only means something if we now go to Mogliano and back that up. We are taking a strong side out there and it is now up to the players to make sure that they are mentally right going into the fixture. Playing Italian sides generally is tough because if you are off your game just a little you make the game a whole lot easier for them and harder for yourselves. Take Rovigo last year for example, where we only came away with the spoils with the last play of the game so we have to make sure that we understand what we are up against on Sunday.”
“From looking at Mogliano they have got a number of threatening players and they look dangerous off their first three or four phases. If we don’t front up and win the collisions on those first few phases then they will get into their game. We have to make sure that we are on the front foot and respect the ball when we have it in attack. If we do that then I don’t see why, with the team we have put out, we won’t come away with a good win.”