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