Dai Young: Back to it ahead of Premiership return
We caught up with Dai Young to see how the squad have spent the past fortnight as they begin preparations ahead of this Friday's trip to Franklins Gardens.
With a break in fixtures as the LV=Cup semi finals and final played out, the Wasps squad used the time to refresh some tired bodies ahead of a crucial run towards the end of the season.
With big Aviva Premiership games against Northampton Saints, London Welsh, Exeter Chiefs, Leicester Tigers and London Irish around the corner, as well as a European Quarter Final against Toulon in France next weekend, the two week's without a game provided a much-needed rest for the players.
“We’ve had a rare couple of weekends off and so we’ve looked to capitalise on that and use the rest and recuperation period to our advantage" said Director of Rugby Dai Young.
“During the first week, the players were given a week off to re-charge their batteries after an attritional six months in the Premiership, Europe and Anglo-Welsh Cup.
“During the second week, we used Monday and Tuesday to conduct fitness tests for all players to give us a clear indication of where we are in terms of fitness, strength and conditioning.
“It’s very important to assess where the squad is currently, noting areas we are already strong in and where we need to improve going into next season. We conduct these tests three times a year and give players targets to hit going forward.
“We were pretty happy with how the fitness tests went; the scores were good. Obviously there’s always room for improvement, but things that we had wanted to improve on from the start of the season have improved.
“During the latter part of the week, we got back into rugby specific training, building towards Friday evening’s game against Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens.
“It doesn’t get any harder in the Aviva Premiership than taking on the reigning champions in their own back yard, so we will need to be at our absolute best come Friday. In that respect, those rare weekends off from rugby were important for players and staff to re-charge mentally as much as physically, so everyone is fully switched on again as we go into this last part of the season.
“It’s an important opportunity for players and support staff to spend a bit of time with their families and allows everybody to keep that feel-good factor that we have at the club and a smile on their face.
“The next two games are massive for Wasps. You really don’t find more physical teams than the clubs we are playing on back-to-back weekends – the defending English Champions, Northampton, followed by the defending European Champions Toulon! So there are two huge tests ahead of this young squad, but they are the kind of games you play rugby for – to test yourself against the very best.
“Every game from now until the end of the season feels like a cup final. Even in the league, every point gained is going to be hugely important and every point lost could end up being important as well.
“We’ve got five Aviva Premiership games left, five games of huge significance. We’re determined to get into the top six, that’s the minimum standard for us and has been our target all season. If things go well for us, there’s no reason why we can’t push a little bit higher, but top six is the only thing we’ve talked about.
“In Europe, everyone is incredibly excited to have reached the Quarter Finals in our first year back in Europe’s top tier competition. Going to Toulon is going to be a great occasion for us all; players, staff and supporters.
“Toulon are aiming to become the first team to be crowned European Champions three years running, so very few people will expect us to win and, being honest, we’d have to play some special stuff to go there and win, but it’s a two-horse race and I believe we can beat anybody on our day.
“Looking further ahead to the final game of the regular Aviva Premiership against Leicester Tigers at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday 9 May, it’s fantastic to see how many tickets have already been sold in the first few days of tickets going on general release.
“The support at the Ricoh this season has been phenomenal, not only in the numbers who have attended, but also in how vocal our supporters have been and how much they’ve got behind the team when they’re needed. All the players and coaches really appreciate the support and commitment shown to the team.
“I know the off-field team are already working hard planning The Stinger – our flagship game of the season - which focuses on a fun day out for all the family to enjoy. I know they have live music, a children’s entertainment area and fans village lined up, so it would be great to see supporters enjoying a day of sport and family entertainment with us at the Ricoh Arena on 9 May.
“It’s going to be massive game for us as a new Midlands derby and with places in the table up for grabs. It would be really nice for us to get an even bigger attendance than we did for our first game against London Irish which was already over 28,000. It would be great to set another new record and I would encourage all Wasps fans and sports fans in general to come down and support Wasps. You can be sure there will also be plenty of Leicester fans turning out for that game!" Tickets for The Stinger are now on sale online here or via the Ticket Office Hotline on 0844 847 1867.