James Gaskell says the next two weeks in Anglo Welsh Cup action has come at a perfect time, as he looks to get minutes under his belt and get back up to full speed.
Wasps head into the Anglo Welsh Cup this weekend on the back of two good results, which have helped to put a rosier tint on the opening block of fixtures, after a testing two months.
Victories over Harlequins and Northampton Saints have helped to get their European and Premiership campaigns heading back in the right direction.
Gaskell was amongst a handful of players to return from injury over the last few weeks and, with a number more due to return in the coming weeks, he says the outlook for the team is beginning to look a lot brighter.
“In the Anglo Welsh Cup you don’t quite know what sort of side the opposition are going to field, so it’s more of a focus on ourselves, on getting our systems right, carrying the confidence through from the last few weeks and making sure we continue that for when we head back into the Premiership in two weeks’ time.
“With a lot of injuries over the last few weeks, there will be a mix of young guys who have an opportunity to show what they can do, as well as some of the regular first-team guys who are making their way back from injury and need some game-time.
“As a guy who has recently come back from injury, it’s been nice to be eased back in, but now I obviously want to be involved from the start like any player, so the next two weeks will be a great chance for me and a few others to do that and prove that we’re ready to go once we get back into the Aviva Premiership.
“It’s been nice to take my time to get back into it but now my body needs the test of 60, 70 or 80 minutes to really get me back up to full speed. Hopefully, over the next two weeks I can get two good hit outs and then try to put some pressure on the boys who are starting at the minute.
“I think for us things started to click when we played against Saracens. We knew we had to put our hands up because, if we hadn’t, it could easily have been 50 or 60 points down there. From there the belief started to come back. We showed that in defence we could stand up to the sort of pressure that the big teams can bring.
"After that we went to Ulster, which was again a disappointing result, but we showed that we were at the ball game for most of it. We always said that it was going to click at some point and Quins were the unlucky team who were on the end of that. After we’d got that win under our belts the self-belief came flooding back into the squad; the vibe at training, the feeling around the place was completely different. It was nice to take that into the weekend and I don’t think many sides will go away to Franklin’s Gardens and get the kind of result that we did.”
Results in the early part of the season have not been predictable for any Aviva Premiership team and Gaskell says last weekend alone highlighted just how tightly-fought the competition has been already this season.
“If you look just at this weekend’s results, people wouldn’t have backed us, they probably wouldn’t have backed Gloucester, they may not have backed Leicester going away to Newcastle the way they’ve been playing. It just proves that you have to play well every week, you’re not guaranteed four or five points at home.
“Towards the end of last season, we probably didn’t play as well as we had been at the start of the year, but it was maybe masked by the fact we had a few individuals who had a couple of big moments in every game. It’s probably been quite a good thing that we’ve had to dig deep in the early part of the season; we’ve ultimately got closer as a group as a result. Hopefully, that’s our bad streak out of the way and we go on to do what Exeter did last season and start to string together a few victories. If we manage to do that then we’ll still end up where we want to be come the end of the season.
“It’s probably the closest group of boys that I’ve been involved with here. Boys enjoy spending time with each other away from the training pitch, boys stick together and it’s good to see. When you look at the other teams in this league who are going well, that is something they’ve had for at least the last five or six years. Exeter have had that since they came up from the Championship and that’s probably how they’ve managed to get to the top so quickly. It’s not that we weren’t close before, but when we were based in London it was a little bit more difficult to spend time together as a squad because we were spread out a bit more. It’s nice that we spend time together and it’s definitely brought us closer.”