Five things not to miss in the 2018/19 Wasps season

Date: 10 Aug 2018


Five things not to miss in the 2018/19 Wasps season

 The Kiwi factor

Former Hurricane Jimmy Gopperth has provided Wasps fans with many memorable moments over the last three seasons, including a never-to-be-forgotten European Cup quarter-final match-clinching touchline conversion.

And in the coming campaign, the 2016/17 Premiership player-of-the-season will be joined at Wasps by three colleagues with strong New Zealand connections.

Heading the list is 18-times-capped All Black fly half Lima Sopoaga, who arrived at the Ricoh Arena from the Highlanders.

He is joined in black-and-gold by newly capped England back-rower Brad Shields, who in recent seasons has starred for the Wellington-based Hurricanes.

The Kiwi contingent is completed by former Maori All Black winger Ambrose Curtis, who left Manawatu for Wasps.

A historic moment?

Tom Varndell is a name close to most Wasps fans’ hearts as a result of the remarkable try-saving tackle on Bath’s Sam Vesty which in 2012 saved the club from relegation.

But it is for try-scoring rather than defence that the pacy winger is most widely remembered, since his long stint in the Premiership left him top of the all-time scoring charts with 92 touchdowns.

Current Wasps favourite Christian Wade’s early career overlapped with Varndell’s spell in black-and-gold, and thanks to a number of prolific subsequent campaigns he is rapidly closing in on his former teammate’s record.

Wade starts the new season with 82 top flight tries from 125 appearances, and few would bet against a new name being entered in the record books before the end of May.

 

12 months from the next World Cup

As the new season develops, professional and armchair pundits will have half-an-eye on the Japan World Cup which takes place in autumn 2019.

Led by summer tourists Joe Launchbury, Nathan Hughes, Elliot Daly, Dan Robson and Brad Shields, plenty of Wasps will hope outstanding club form advances their England claims.

And with a string of talented red rose prospects – plus Wales’ Thomas Young and three South African hopefuls – lining up in black-and-gold, Wasps fans have an intriguing sub-plot to follow over the course of the coming season.

A pair of new prop idols…

Director of rugby David Young has bolstered his side’s front row resources by bringing two international props to the club over the close-season.

Kieran Brookes is a powerhouse 27-year-old who earned 16 England caps during spells with Newcastle and Northampton.

And former Stade Francais loose head Zurabi Zhvania played 34 times for Georgia while plying his trade in the French Top 14.

With England Saxon Jake Cooper-Woolley plus former England U20 pair Tom West and Will Stuart already in harness and Simon McIntyre plus England international Matt Mullan due to return from injury during the season, the front row cupboard looks well stocked.

Springbok magic

It was no surprise to regular Wasps followers when full back Willie Le Roux was on a number of end-of-season awards shortlists following his stellar 2017/18 club campaign.

And after being recalled by South Africa, Wasps’ full back went on to star in his country’s summer series win over England.

He will again be joined at the Ricoh by impressive centre Juan De Jongh and powerhouse forward Ashley Johnson, while a fourth Springbok international, back-rower Nizaam Carr, has also returned to the club where he enjoyed an outstanding loan cameo last November and December.