Wasps fly-half calls on match sched­ulers to have a re-think

The Rugby Paper - - News - ■ By NEALE HAR­VEY

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.”

PIC­TURE: Getty Im­ages

Up for the chal­lenge: Jimmy Gop­perth

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