The X-fac­tor Wasps wing is be­ing tipped to break the Pre­mier­ship try-scor­ing record

Rugby World - - FRONT ROW -

HRISTIAN WADE has pretty im­pec­ca­ble tim­ing on the pitch – a step here, a try there, a burst of pace ev­ery­where – and while his Wasps team-mates ques­tion his punc­tu­al­ity off the pitch, he is never ac­tu­ally late.

“Ev­ery­thing hap­pens on Chris­tian Wade time,” ex­plains Jimmy Gop­perth. “You’ll see him a few min­utes be­fore a meet­ing and he’ll say, ‘I’ll be there’, and he walks in with one sec­ond to go. He pushes the bound­aries on time­keep­ing, but that’s Wadey. He’s just Mr Cool.”

The 27-year-old is fa­mous for his laid-back na­ture and ready smile – and you need those char­ac­ters in a squad. Joe Simp­son, who has known Wade since he first joined the club’s acad­emy, tells a story from a pre-sea­son camp in Por­tu­gal this sum­mer that high­lights the wing’s im­por­tance to team spirit.

“We went to a restau­rant on one of the last days,” re­calls Simp­son. “Wadey talks with ev­ery­one but he doesn’t sit with his clos­est friends, he plonks him­self down at the acad­emy ta­ble and finds out about them. He’s jok­ing with them, putting peo­ple at ease. That’s one of his tal­ents and one of the rea­sons he’s so well loved.”

He’s a fans’ favourite too, some­one who gets a crowd on their feet with his fast feet and unique skills. He may be on the smaller end of the scale when it comes to pro

Cplay­ers, but he has a big bag of tricks. Those tricks mean he started this cam­paign third on the all-time list of the Pre­mier­ship’s top try-scor­ers, with 82. Mark Cueto is sec­ond with 90 and Tom Varn­dell first with 92, while Chris Ash­ton is just be­hind Wade on 80. As Wade has notched dou­ble fig­ures in the league for the past four sea­sons, he could well have set a new record come May.

“Chris­tian is still pretty young and in the prime of his ca­reer,” says Simp­son. “Plus, he’s played for a club that was threat­ened by rel­e­ga­tion for a cou­ple of years, so he’s not been at the top his whole ca­reer. He’s a strong favourite to be­come the top Pre­mier­ship try-scorer.

“Every year he lights up the Pre­mier­ship and does some­thing spe­cial. He’s one of the top few names peo­ple want to go and watch in the Pre­mier­ship. He’s an X-fac­tor player.”

Gop­perth uses the same ex­pres­sion to de­scribe Wade, say­ing: “You don’t get many play­ers who have that X-fac­tor like him. He’s able to beat some­one within half a me­tre. He’s ex­cep­tional and it’s a plea­sure to play with him.

“I love chas­ing him – I can never keep up but I get to watch him do his work from be­hind. All you need to do is give him an op­por­tu­nity in a bit of space.

He’s not straight up and down; he’s got a step, he uses his speed or a stut­ter – he’s got all the tricks in the book. He goes onto the field and pro­duces magic.

“Every time he gets the ball the crowd roar be­cause they ex­pect some­thing is go­ing to hap­pen. That shows how bril­liant he is. Not many play­ers have that X-fac­tor and it baf­fles me that he’s not had bet­ter luck in­ter­na­tion­ally.”

Wade has a soli­tary Eng­land cap, won against Ar­gentina in June 2013, but has not had a look-in un­der Ed­die Jones. De­fence has of­ten been high­lighted as a flaw in his game, but his team-mates feel such crit­i­cism is un­war­ranted.

Simp­son says Wade “punches well above his weight” in the tackle while Gop­perth adds: “His de­fence has come on hugely – it’s the big­gest part of the game he’s worked on – and he’s made try-sav­ing tack­les. He doesn’t get enough recog­ni­tion for his de­fence. Peo­ple think he’s a great at­tacker but not great de­fen­sively, but the stats tell you dif­fer­ent. He’s com­mit­ted phys­i­cally and men­tally, and makes big plays.”

Whether or not more Eng­land hon­ours beckon, Wasps un­doubt­edly recog­nise Wade’s value. As Gop­perth says: “He’s def­i­nitely one of a kind, our Wadey.”

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