I need to im­pose my­self on games more, ad­mits Daly

The Wasps back re­fuses to blame fix­ture pile-up and switch­ing po­si­tion for poor start to sea­son

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Champions Cup - Char­lie Mor­gan

Wasps’ cur­rent predica­ment re­minds a few around the club of the 2011/12 cam­paign, when an ex­tra­or­di­nary spate of in­juries re­quired the newly ap­pointed di­rec­tor of rugby, Dai Young, to use emerg­ing young­sters Joe Launch­bury and Elliot Daly in the first team.

Daly flit­ted across the back line early in his ca­reer, and has had to pre­pare for an un­fa­mil­iar role in re­cent weeks as well.

With twin play­mak­ers Danny Cipri­ani and Jimmy Gop­perth ab­sent for the visit to Al­lianz Park last Sun­day, Wasps’ reg­u­lar out­side cen­tre – a Test wing for the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions – was cover­ing for stand-in fly-half Rob Miller.

“I hadn’t played 10 since maybe un­der-16s at school,” he said. “I was very keen for it, though.”

De­spite his en­thu­si­asm and dili­gence – Daly took ex­tra time to make notes on line-outs be­fore the trip to Sara­cens – it proved too dif­fi­cult to im­pro­vise against the Euro­pean cham­pi­ons dur­ing a 38-19 loss.

A fourth con­sec­u­tive Premier­ship de­feat for Wasps has plunged them to 10th in the ta­ble, so the Cham­pi­ons Cup comes as a re­fresh­ing change.

But it is not as good as a rest. Gop­perth, Launch­bury and Nathan Hughes are named to face Ul­ster. Still, the open­ing pool-stage as­sign­ment looks ex­cru­ci­at­ingly tough, just five days af­ter their last out­ing.

“We had a day off on Mon­day,” Daly ex­plained diplo­mat­i­cally. “Tues­day and Wed­nes­day we had train­ing and then we fly on Thurs­day. So, we got two train­ing ses­sions in, which is one less than in a nor­mal week. You have to nar­row in on what you want in those ses­sions and make sure ev­ery­one knows what they are do­ing.

“We need to get our at­tack go­ing. In th­ese next two games we have to try to score some good tries and put some good shapes to­gether. To have a new

‘I’m go­ing to try to get my hands on the ball and link up with play­ers, make things hap­pen’

com­pe­ti­tion is per­fect for us, and hope­fully we can play well in th­ese two games and take that into the Premier­ship.”

Re­flect­ing Young’s de­sire for fo­cus and a no-excuse at­ti­tude, Daly also wants to im­pose him­self more than he has since re­join­ing Wasps in the wake of his Lions tour. “I prob­a­bly haven’t got my hands on the ball as much as I’d have wanted to so far,” he ad­mit­ted. “It has been those type of games where we have scored a cou­ple of quick tries and then con­ceded a few, and not had as much pos­ses­sion as we would have liked.

“I’m go­ing to try to get my hands on the ball and link with some play­ers in th­ese next two games and make things hap­pen.” De­spite reg­is­ter­ing five wins from their first six Pro 14 fix­tures, Ul­ster have their own in­jury is­sues. Out­stand­ing Spring­bok flanker Mar­cell Coet­zee has suf­fered a new set­back with his knee problems. Nei­ther Rory Best nor Jared Payne will fea­ture. How­ever, Wasps know their chief dan­ger man, Charles Pi­u­tau, all too well.

“He is a great guy,” Daly said of the block­buster All Black, his team-mate for a sparkling 2015/16 sea­son. “He’s some­one you just pass the ball to and he’ll do some­thing spe­cial … we’ll have to look out for him – it would be nice if he was on our side.

“He set up a try the other week for them by run­ning from his own half. We have to be wary of him but they have qual­ity around the pitch, so we are go­ing to have to be good with our kick­ing game and not give him too much space.”

A last-play try against Ex­eter Chiefs at the Ri­coh Arena in the 2016 Cham­pi­ons Cup quar­ter-fi­nal con­sti­tuted one of Pi­u­tau’s more dra­matic con­tri­bu­tions for Wasps. Daly, who rates him as one of the best fin­ish­ers on the planet, knows to ex­pect the un­ex­pected from a player ca­pa­ble of con­jur­ing “some­thing from noth­ing”.

“The un­pre­dictabil­ity of him means any­thing is on at any time. “He is strong in the close quar­ters and has got good ac­cel­er­a­tion as well … hope­fully we can shut him down.”

Play­maker role: Elliot Daly

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