Fitting five-year finale awaits Guy Thompson on Sunday

Date: 20 Apr 2018

Guy Thompson narrows his eyes and, unusually for such an outgoing, articulate character hesitates briefly before sharing his thoughts about next Sunday’s crucial Aviva Premiership clash with Northampton.

The round 21 visit of the Saints will also potentially be the popular back-rower’s final home game in black-and-gold prior after an outstanding five-year stay, but while admitting it will be an emotional day, he is also keeping his now fully-open eyes firmly on the prize.

“I’m the sort of person who doesn’t like to look too far ahead, but I’m sure it will in some ways be a sad occasion,” he admits.

“I’m massively grateful to everyone at Wasps for the last five years, and to be able to play a big home game on such a massive occasion will be fantastic.

“But it’s also not one to get too carried away with as there is still plenty of rugby to play this season and to be honest I want my last Wasps game to be at Twickenham in the final.

“So much as we will feed off the emotion of the occasion against Northampton, we’ve still hopefully got three important games after that.”

Taking the hint, I accept that’s as much soul-baring as I am likely to be made privy to, and we move on to the challenge the green-black-and-golds present.

“Saints is going to be a massive game,” Thompson acknowledges. “They haven’t had the best of seasons, but have come off a massive result in the East Midlands derby with Leicester last weekend.

“When you play Northampton, you know they are always really physical and direct, so if you’re not on your game they cause you a lot of problems.

“It’s a game we have to win as we have aspirations of reaching the top four, or even pushing on for the top two and as always it will be a huge occasion at the Ricoh.

“We’ve defended very well against them over the last two or three years, and have scored some really good counter-attack tries. Hopefully we can also add some control of territory and field position to that this time.” 

Thompson laughs when I suggest that his five-year Wasps career is the latest instalment in a Boys Own rugby adventure.

However, from amateur rugby in his native Hereford to National One at Richmond coupled with a job in recruitment, then a Championship stint with Jersey, there is no denying the steep upward trajectory that has taken the 30-year-old to the summit of English and European club rugby with Wasps is the stuff of dreams.

“I’m massively thankful to Dai and the coaches who took me from the Championship and gave me the opportunity,” he says. “It came late on in the season and thankfully I managed to take it with both hands.

“There’s been so many good moments over the five years here it’s difficult to go through them all.

“I remember arriving on my first day not really knowing anyone, then going into the changing room and bumping into Matt Mullan who I knew from Bromsgrove and played with in age-group rugby for the Midlands and instantly feeling a lot better.

“But everyone else immediately made me feel so welcome, and looking back now I can’t believe that was five years ago. I’ve absolutely loved every minute of my time here and it was a very difficult decision to move on.

“Like me, Alex Rieder and Tom Cruse have come up through the levels and you have to give Dai massive credit for that as it’s not easy to spot players who will bring so much to the club, fit into its culture, work hard and achieve things.

“Coming into the Premiership from the Championship is difficult, but Dai gives you that confidence to push on, feel like you belong and show that in how you play. 

“We also all owe so much to Derek Richardson and his family for what they’ve done for us all and for the club. He arrived at the same time as me, but only afterwards when I spoke to the other boys did I become aware of just how tough a time everyone had prior to his arrival.

“Not only has Derek secured the club’s future, but he’s made it a very positive place to be, he’s given us all opportunities and as the club moves forward we are all massively in debt to him and his family.

“It’s been a crazy journey in many ways. If you told me five years ago I would be close to 100 Wasps appearances, which if we get to the semi final is what I will reach, I wouldn’t have believed you and would have bitten your hand off.

“To play 100 times for Wasps after the journey I’ve had through the leagues has been incredible. I’ve had to work very hard with every step I’ve made along the way, but it’s been an incredible experience and I wouldn’t swap any of it.”

The rest of Paul Smith’s interview with Guy Thompson will be in next Sunday’s match programme.

Tickets are still available for the round 21 Aviva Premiership visit of Northampton Saints on Sunday April 29.