Daly tells in­jury-hit Wasps to be­ware Pi­u­tau

The Guardian - Sport - - Rugby Union European Champions Cup - Ger­ard Meagher

When El­liot Daly re­veals he has been cov­er­ing fly-half for Wasps, hav­ing not played there since his school days, it would ap­pear to be a demon­stra­tion of just how bare the cup­boards are in Coven­try – un­til you re­mem­ber he made his de­but months be­fore fin­ish­ing his A-lev­els.

As a re­sult, Daly ac­cen­tu­ates the pos­i­tives of Wasps’ in­jury cri­sis – the worst he has seen since the one which ac­cel­er­ated his emer­gence in the first team – but there can be lit­tle doubt­ing that Dai Young’s side have in­deed been “kicked in the nuts” as the Welsh­man put it, with a five-day turn­around be­fore tonight’s Cham­pi­ons Cup opener with Ul­ster.

Young does at least wel­come back Nathan Hughes and Jimmy Gop­perth but Fri­day-night trips to the Kingspan Sta­dium, as the re­named Raven­hill is now known, are about as daunt­ing as away days at Ex­eter or Sara­cens, and Wasps have been heav­ily beaten on both of those grounds re­cently – go­ing down 38-19 at Al­lianz Park last Sun­day.

Daly, for his part, has not tasted vic­tory since help­ing the Bri­tish & Ir­ish Li­ons to a sec­ond Test vic­tory against the All Blacks in Welling­ton – he sat out Wasps’ first two Premier­ship en­coun­ters, both wins, hav­ing played 36 matches last sea­son, re­turn­ing for the four sub­se­quent de­feats.

It seems un­just to ac­cuse Daly of a post-Li­ons hang­over, how­ever, con­sid­er­ing he has been af­forded scant op­por­tu­nity to show­case his run­ning tal­ents. “I prob­a­bly haven’t got my hands on the ball as much as I’d have wanted to so far,” he says. “It has been those type of games where we have scored a cou­ple of quick tries and then con­ceded a few and we’ve not had as much pos­ses­sion as we would have liked.”

Gop­perth’s timely re­turn means the prospect of Daly, pic­tured right, run­ning out at fly-half is di­min­ished but at Sara­cens last Sun­day he was stand­ing by if Rob Miller were to add to Young’s in­jury woes. “I was very keen for it though,” says Daly. In­stead he con­tin­ues at out­side cen­tre where he can ex­pect to be kept busy by the Ul­ster full-back Charles Pi­u­tau, who daz­zled dur­ing his 2015-16 sea­son at Wasps. In that cam­paign Wasps reached the Cham­pi­ons Cup semi­fi­nals, thanks in no small part to Pi­u­tau’s last-gasp try in the quar­ter-fi­nal win against Ex­eter, and the New Zealan­der is in form – as his role in Ja­cob Stock­dale’s stun­ning try against Con­nacht last week­end would tes­tify.

“He is a great guy – some­one you just pass the ball to and he does some­thing spe­cial,” says Daly. “It would be nice if he was on our side. He is a qual­ity player, – the un­pre­dictabil­ity of him – any­thing is on at any time. He is def­i­nitely up there [as one of the best fin­ish­ers in the world].” Con­sid­er­ing they took Ex­eter to ex­tra time in last sea­son’s Premier­ship fi­nal it would be a stretch to say that Wasps did not re­cover from the com­pre­hen­sive Cham­pi­ons Cup quar­ter-fi­nal de­feat by Le­in­ster last sea­son but there can be lit­tle doubt­ing it res­onated. That day Wasps’ all-star at­tack was taken apart by Le­in­ster’s mus­cle and you sense Young has slightly tight­ened the reins this sea­son. From the out­side it would ap­pear that amid their in­jury prob­lems Wasps are strug­gling to find the bal­ance be­tween prag­ma­tism and panache but Daly dis­agrees. “We prob­a­bly should have kicked a lit­tle bit more [at Sara­cens] and put them un­der pres­sure, in­stead we played a bit too much in our own half, which we prob­a­bly did in the Le­in­ster game as well,” he says. “There prob­a­bly are things you can take from both games, but we’re look­ing at us this week­end and what we can do as a squad to get the win.”

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