With a season of relative disappointment for Wasps now at an end, it represents a chance for young Jonah Holmes to reflect on his first season with the Wasps academy.
The scrum-half, himself a former pupil of St. Benedict’s, has used this year as an education as he seeks to immerse himself within the rigours of top flight rugby. Mixing appearances in the first team squad with impressive ‘A’ League performances, Holmes signed a two year extension to his contract in December; a clear sign of the faith shown in him by his Wasps coaches.
With most of his first team appearances restricted to appearances from the bench, Holmes, like many others, has found the experience of the ‘A’ League very rewarding.
“It’s definitely a good stepping stone into the first team. You absolutely have to perform as you’re always being watched,” said Holmes.
“It’s really good because the coaches all take a big interest in how the ‘A’ League is going. They’ll always come to the away matches too, so you really want to make an impression.”
Showing such enthusiasm for following the progress of their young charges, Shaun Edwards and his coaches clearly have a big role to play in the development of their side. And surrounding himself with the likes of Edwards and Trevor Woodman is sure to benefit Holmes’ career.
“There are lots of good coaches at the club so you’ll always be picking up advice,” Holmes began.
“Shaun Edwards has a lot of tips. I’ll listen to what he says to Joe Simpson, and I think Joe said it recently, but a lot of the things he says sound odd at first; it’s only in the match you realise he’s right!” commented the youngster, perhaps realising that, more often than not, it’s better to trust the ex-rugby league man.
Holmes’ burgeoning talent was made clear when he was added to the England U20s squad for some warm weather training in Portugal at the turn of the year. And while he is happy for his Wasps teammates currently lighting up the Junior World Cup in Italy, Holmes is busy plotting his own ascent to that level.
“They’re all great players who deserved their chance. Obviously it’s a very good level in the U20s but I hope that I can be involved next year,” said Holmes. “For now though, my main aim is with Wasps,” he added.
The latter comment by Holmes will undoubtedly be reflected in the words echoing around the squad. Finishing in a demoralising ninth spot was not the season that Wasps had planned. Beset by injuries and forced to try untested combinations, Wasps sank after showing initial positive signs early on in the season.
With one of few salvations being the vibrancy of their young academy, Holmes is well positioned to reflect openly.
“The season could have gone much better, really. Injuries made it tough. But this year will be a lot better than last year. There’s no room for arrogance, it’ll just be a fresh start.”
As pre-season begins to kick in, it is clear that the young scrum half cannot wait for the season to start. Bolstered by new signings – most notably hooker Steve Thompson and fly half Nicky Robinson – and inspired by the performances of the academy, Holmes is raring to go.
“All those in the academy feel like they have a chance. I’m really looking forward to it – the rest of the team are as well. There are definitely exciting times ahead.”
Holmes waxes lyrical about his fellow academy mates, ranging from the ox-like strength of flanker Billy Vunipola to the devastating pace of established England Sevens star Christian Wade. With Wasps’ recruitment policy looking towards more experienced stars, it appears that Shaun Edwards’ policy of filtering through young talent will continue.
It is clear that Wasps require a revolution, and if the talents of Jonah Holmes and his academy cohorts are anything to go by, it seems as though this revolution will come from within.
By Tom James