Wasps fly-half calls on match schedulers to have a re-think
WASPS fly-half Jimmy Gopperth has urged Premiership and European rugby bosses to review their match scheduling after conceding his side have been placed at a huge disadvantage ahead of Friday’s crucial Champions Cup clash at Ulster.
Despite previous assurances by Premiership Rugby bosses that five-day turnarounds would be a thing of the past, Wasps will travel to Belfast on Thursday with just one full day of training under their belts following today’s showdown at Saracens.
It is the third occasion this season a Premiership club have been required to back up Sunday with Friday, with Worcester and London Irish having already suffered, while Exeter will be hit later this month with their trips to Montpellier and Sale.
Ulster, meanwhile, have a full week to prepare after playing Connacht on Friday night.
At a time when Premiership injury counts are hitting record levels, Gopperth believes television companies and the rugby authorities must get their heads together to ensure player welfare is no longer compromised by tight turnarounds.
Gopperth, himself protected from action today with Europe in mind, told
The Rugby Paper: “It’s unfortunate to be playing on a Sunday when you’ve got to turnaround for Friday. With more collisions these days it takes a few more days to recover, so it dramatically cuts your training field time.
“After Saracens today, this week will be pretty light: you’ll have Monday off, Tuesday will be very light and then on Thursday we’ll have a captain’s run before travelling, so you’ll only really get one proper training day on Wednesday.
“It’s hard after any game, but it’s even harder when you’ve got a squad full of injuries and this is a huge game on Friday because we’re back in the Champions Cup, which is a competition we take really seriously and want to do well in.
“Playing at Ulster in any match is going to be a hell of a battle, but we’ll just have to deal with the short turnaround. As players, you just get told when and where you’re playing and crack on, but the authorities must really deal with this.”
Despite the obstacles placed before them, Gopperth believes Wasps are still capable of kick-starting their European campaign with a win.
He said: “We’ve got a hard pool but it’s a massive honour to be playing in Europe’s top competition and if we can win our first two games against Ulster and Harlequins, you put yourself in a very good position to make the quarter-finals.
“It’ll be chucking it down with rain in Belfast, it always does there, but there’ll be a great atmosphere at Ravenhill and I really enjoyed playing there during my time at Leinster.
“You’ve had six hard weeks of Premiership and when you get to Europe it’s a different mindset; you get very excited and although it’s going to be challenging, there’ll be a lot of positive vibes from our guys going into that environment.”
Last season’s Premiership finalists head to Saracens today, needing a boost after losing their last three matches to Harlequins, Exeter and Bath.
Gopperth added: “There’s maybe a lack of confidence at the minute. When you’re playing well everyone’s bubbly and wants their hands on the ball, but at the moment everyone’s a bit quiet and we need to get the excitement back.
“We’ve got a decent squad so we will bounce back and we can draw some confidence from what Exeter did last season. They won only two of their first eight games but still won the Premiership, so we know we’re still in a good position.
“We know we have to be ten or 15 per cent better but it’s a good challenge at Saracens, against the European champions in their own home so it doesn’t get any easier, but we’ll be excited and these are the games to relish.”
Up for the challenge: Jimmy Gopperth