Joe Ward: Our season so far and changing of fortunes

The Rugby Blog is pleased to introduce an insightful article from Joe Ward, London Wasps New Zealand-born hooker. Here he gives us a glimpse of life in the Wasps camp, the new faces on the scene and his take on why last year’s Champions currently sit 11th in the Guinness Premiership.

Joe Ward

First off, I’ll do a quick brief on our pre-season. We made some great signings and said farewell to some great lads as well. Gone is the world’s hairiest Prop Nick Adams, who has left to play for Montabaun in France, and to also pursue his film career as stunt double to Azamat in the next instalment of the the Borat movie.

Obviously Dallaglio finally retired, albeit briefly, when he rocked up to a Wasps 2nd team game a few months back with his boots in his bag and jaw protruding. Next to go, and currently sitting at 138th in line to the British throne – Lord Fraser Waters left to play elsewhere. The ex-Harrow gent is now plying his trade for Treviso in Italy, and I hear he’s been mowing down long-haired pasta eaters with ease (probably with the same ease as he has had mowing down bottles of vintage 1924 Chianti each week). Pint-sized England 7’s maestro Simon Amor left to join the circus and Scotland A halfback Mark McMillan has returned to sunny Glasgow after his mum told him to come home.

Players joining us this year were a mixture of youth, experience and extreme old age. Mark ‘lock up your daughters’ Robinson joined us from Northampton where he was extremely successful on and off the field. We both played together in New Zealand at North Harbour and I know he is a great player and a terrific team man. He is also the only rugby player I have heard of that has attended 3 out of the 5 days of a Fashion Week.

Coming in also is the legendary French openside, Serge Betsen. The boys have ribbed him for his age, but he is still in great form and being the top bloke he is, has fitted in superbly. Then, just when it started to look like a retirement home, Wasps bought in fresh young talent in the form of Australian hearthrob Lachie Mitchell. Lachie too has brought an energy and excitement to the club, and like the rest of the new boys has easily slotted into the Wasps culture.

I imagine the young Ocker will soon be following in Mark Robinson’s footsteps down the fashion runway route. I tried to get him to follow me and fellow Wasps Hooker Rob Webber down the route of the Antipodean Redback Pub near our training ground in Acton, complete with sawdust on the floor and 30p snake bites, but he’s yet to take us up on it. Shame really.

So that’s Wasps at the beginning of the season and the club and players were extremely excited at the prospect of the coming months. The season kicked off with consecutive losses to Irish, Worcester and Northampton (in which my pec muscles decided they wanted a divorce from my Humourous bone) but the finger was certainly not on the panic button after the slow start.

Wasps, as a lot of people know are notoriously slow starters and this season looked like a case of déjà vu. We came back with a great win against our old foe Leicester but subsequently lost the next 2. It is here where I will desist listing our losses as it may propel some Wasps supporters out there to start looking for the nearest bottle of Draino.

As a player part of the current set up, it is hard to put your finger on any one thing that is going wrong. The same effort and attention to detail in training and preparation is still there, as is the legendary Wasps team culture where the banter merchants and practical jokers are still at it. But as anyone who has been in either a team that is consistently winning, or consistently losing – it can become a habit. We have gone some way to freshen things up and get some new ideas in the form of New Zealander Tony Hanks, who the boys really respond to but to be honest the only way to claw our way back is to get our confidence back and the mentality that we have always had – which is ‘We are the Wasps, We are the Champions, Come and get it’.

It sounds incredibly corny I know, but that was our attitude, even when we weren’t necessarily the best team on the pitch. At Wasps we have an incredibly dedicated back room staff and talented playing personnel that is more than capable of turning the season round. We can’t blame the International players being away as you have to work with what you have got – which is still plenty of top class experience and fantastic fresh talent, and I can say with certainty that when we start to string some wins together again, we will get that confidence back.

You just need to look at this time last year when we were in the same position – bottom of the table in January, Guinness Premiership Champions in May. Hopefully history repeats.

Joe Ward has a new blog called Inside the Locker Room