De Luca looking forward to the challenge against Exeter
As Wasps prepare for Saturday's Anglo-Welsh Cup clash with last year's finalists Exeter Chiefs, Nick De Luca who's just extended his contract with Wasps till the end of the season, says the squad are ready for a tough test at Sandy Park.
Nick De Luca is sponsored by The SFB Group
Despite it being a different competition on Saturday, De Luca believes Wasps need to try to continue the season's momentum for what will be a difficult assignment.
"Everyone knows how strong a side Exeter are. It's a really tough place to go, the Chiefs are a good side and even better at home, but we're looking forward to the challenge. We're not sure what team they will put out, but either way it will be strong. We've set a marker down, we're having a good season so far, so we'll try to maintain that as a team.
"We've put ourselves in a strong position in the Premiership and Europe, just past the mid-point of the season and now we're getting towards the business end, so hopefully we can push on. It's important to balance the squad, making sure everyone is fresh, because it's very difficult to challenge on three fronts. We'll see how we manage that over the next three or four weeks, but fingers crossed we can keep pushing and do well against Exeter.
"The style of rugby we're playing is very attractive and effective. We just need to make sure we don't go off plan, we need to stick to it and trust ourselves. We need to keep the energy that we have built up, to keep everyone buzzing week in, week out. Going forward into the new competition this weekend, we will be looking to keep the momentum going."
Wasps and Exeter have shared some fantastic encounters recently, including a quarter final and semi final last season, but the former Scotland international believes those games won't play a part.
"There has been a lot of recent history between ourselves and Exeter, so there may be some mind games here and there, but personally and for the team this weekend we will just concentrate on ourselves and what we are going to do."
The Anglo-Welsh Cup always provides a fantastic opportunity for those players who haven't had that much game time and this weekend should be no different.
"The first team as such, have been playing excellently and deserve their position on merit, but the Anglo-Welsh Cup gives us other guys the chance to put our hands up. We train hard week-in-week-out as non-23 to prepare the team for the weekend, but we all want to be in that team, so hopefully we can all play a part going forward.
"It's a hugely important game, you will see a lot of guys out there trying to put their best foot forward, to promote themselves for the business end of the year. This is an opportunity and we have got to take it."
De Luca turns 33 next week and announced last week that he will retire from professional rugby at the end of the season, to take up a post as Director of Rugby at Uppingham School.
"I've been very fortunate, I have had a fantastic career, I've really enjoyed it and I am looking to go out with a big season. By no means am I retired yet, I am retiring in the summer, but I am physically and mentally in a good place and I am ready for that next challenge. It's always a difficult decision to step away from what has been your identity, your job and your whole world for a number of years, but it happens all of the time. I'm glad I'm able to take it on my terms, while I'm still in good health, as opposed to a lot of my peers, who have had it forced upon them. I feel like I'm in a very privileged position to get to choose for myself and finish at such an amazing club and rugby environment.
"I had this opportunity at Uppingham School, I'm really excited by it and I think I would have been a fool not to take that next step into the real world. You always try and prepare for these things, but you can't really until it comes to the crunch. I've been thinking about it for a number of years and it just feels like the right time. I'm feeling positive about it, I'm going into a role where rugby is going to be paramount and the culture, values and the style of rugby are really going to be important."
It is a significant block of upcoming fixtures, with Wasps realistically needing to win both this weekend and in the second game back at home against Ospreys, a task that will be equally difficult according to De Luca.
"When I was first coming through, Ospreys were the dominant team in the Celtic League, so it's good to see them back at the top of the tree. They are playing some great rugby, they have always had an incredibly aggressive and dominant defence, but now they have some real flair coming through. They are an impressive side and they hold a lot of threat so it will be a great game to be involved in and should be great to come and watch, because there will be a lot of talent on display.
"There is a lot of talent coming through at Wasps and it is great that they get the opportunity to play in the Anglo-Welsh Cup. I'm looking forward to seeing them perform again this weekend and I have no doubt they will do well in these next two games."
Tickets for Wasps' clash with Ospreys at the Ricoh Arena on Sunday 5 February, kick-off 3.00pm, are still available to purchase online here.
Nick De Luca is due to be our cover star for next weekend’s programme against Ospreys, read a further in-depth interview with Nick, by picking up your copy at the game for just £3.