Anglo-Welsh Cup balances our longer and shorter-term objectives - Jon Pendlebury
It is fair to say that social media’s soapbox contingent are not all the biggest supporters of the Anglo-Welsh Cup, but this view is definitely not one that Wasps academy manager Jon Pendlebury shares.
Indeed, the man who is in the vanguard of producing the next generations of black-and-gold talent believes the competition provides a vital stepping stone between age group and A League rugby and the rareified air of the Aviva Premiership.
“In terms of player progression and player pathway the Anglo-Welsh is an important part of our season,” he says.
“It is also crucial for players returning from injury, not to mention those who have recently come in from outside the club or have not had the amount of game time they want in the Premiership or Europe.
“It gives everybody an opportunity to get some form, stick their hand up and stake a claim.”
“For the younger guys, it is part of a structured season which includes ten A League fixtures in addition to a minimum of four Anglo-Welsh games.
“You don't go overnight from being an under 18 schoolboy to a 30-cap Premiership starter so this competition answers the question about how you make that bridge.”
Pendlebury’s views are endorsed by his club’s opening two rounds of Anglo-Welsh action in the autumn, which saw Nizaam Carr make a memorable debut in Swansea.
In addition, Messrs Gaskell, Haskell, De Jongh, Miller, Moore, Symons and Willis senior have all seen action in the competition this term, with the latter being a cause celebre for the academy boss’s development theory.
“Jack is a perfect example of how progress to the first-team can be made,” he says.
“What he's done so far this season sets an example to guys coming through who are two, three, four, five years younger than him.
“He is a Wasps academy player that's come through the pathway, forced his way into a first team training squad and is now playing week-in, week-out.
“He’s already made 15 appearances across 21 fixtures so far this season, which is a fantastic achievement.”
Above: England U20 squad hooker Gaby Oghre in action
Like most coaches, Pendlebury is hoping to see plenty of his players distinguish themselves against London Irish and Leicester over the next fortnight.
However, he has another less obvious take on how the competition will help Wasps’ coaching team with their longer-term player development objectives.
“I do want to see some players put their hands up,” he says.
“But I'm also looking forward to seeing some boys struggle, because I think that's good for them as well as they'll then know where they're at.
“A couple of guys have been released by their schools for a week and are training with professionals for the first time.
“That's a checkpoint for them, and enables them to see where they're at after spending the last few weeks playing and training regularly with the under 18’s and with their schools preparing for sevens competitions.
“You want to see them struggle, do things well, make mistakes then get over them.”
Tickets are available for next Sunday’s Anglo-Welsh Cup clash with Leicester Tigers and the Aviva Premiership visit of Exeter on Sunday February 18 either in person from the Ricoh Arena ticket office, at www.wasps.co.uk/tickets or on 02476 786411.