Youthful Wasps front row brighten a difficult afternoon in Reading
In years to come, the record books will show that powerful London Irish inflicted Anglo-Welsh Cup defeat on a largely academy-sourced Wasps side at the Madejski Stadium last Saturday.
And those researchers doing their homework on the 2017-18 competition will doubtless conclude it was a difficult day for Jon Pendlebury’s youthful charges and those who were there to support them.
In a scoreboard sense this is an accurate summary, but for three of Wasps’ players it may just be that the afternoon of Saturday January 27 2018 does have some longer-term significance.
This is because the England under 20 front row trio representing the visitors – hooker Gaby Oghre from the current red rose squad, plus former Radley College teammates Tom West and Will Stuart who are from the 2016 under 20’s vintage – produced an eye-catching display.
And this was a doubly praiseworthy effort given the proven quality of their London Irish opponents.
Indeed, it is unlikely that the three will have previously faced opponents of quite such pedigree and experience as that fielded by the Exiles, for whom All Blacks World Cup winner Ben Franks, former England international David Paice and Australian import Ollie Hoskins wore the 1-2-3 shirts.
Hooker Gabriel Oghre in action against London Irish
So to edge the scrum contest, then contribute effectively both with ball in hand and in defence was a fine achievement for the three young Wasps, as Pendlebury recognised afterwards.
“Gaby Oghre, Will Stuart and Tom West have given us more than parity in the scrum, winning penalties and getting some go-forward ball,” he said.
“Despite coming up against a couple of good scrummaging props, we’ve also seen what they could do around the pitch as well.”
West, Oghre and Stuart have a grand total of 16 Aviva Premiership and European Cup minutes to their collective names.
However, all have logged black-and-gold appearances in the A League and Anglo-Welsh Cup during the last few seasons in addition to picking up valuable experience in the Championship and National Leagues during loan spells with the likes of Nottingham, Birmingham Moseley, Blackheath and Henley Hawks.
Loosehead Prop Tom West in action against Saracens
For a front-rower’s viewpoint on the three young prospects, we asked their clubmate, 17-times-capped England loose head Matt Mullan for his thoughts:
“Gaby is a brilliant rugby player,” Mullan said. “You could put him on the pitch at No.6 or even in the centre and he wouldn’t look out of place.
“Tom is learning really fast from the experience he is getting in the Championship at Nottingham. Every time he comes back to train with us he has moved on a little.
“Will has really been chucked in the deep end training with the first team here at Wasps, and he’s done really well. He has kept his head down and worked hard.
“They are all very much in the mould of a modern front-rower, and have bags of potential.”
So for those who follow Wasps fortunes closely, perhaps the Madejski in January 2018 might not be a day to immediately erase from the memory banks after all…
Tickets are available for this Sunday’s Anglo-Welsh Cup clash with Leicester Tigers and the Aviva Premiership visit of defending champions Exeter on Sunday February 18 either in person from the Ricoh Arena ticket office, at www.wasps.co.uk/tickets or on 02476 786411.