Creating a ‘no fear environment’ has been one of the biggest factors in Wasps’ sparkling turnaround in form, according to former player Andy Goode.
The Black and Golds have won 11 of their last 12 games to rocket up the table from tenth to second to book themselves a home Premiership play-off semi-final on Saturday against Bristol Bears.
Wins away at Bristol and Worcester Warriors in the closing chapters of former director of rugby Dai Young’s tenure hinted that better times were around the corner, but since the Welshman parted company with Wasps in February and attack coach Lee Blackett was promoted to head coach, their form has sky rocketed.
Former fly-half Goode, who scored 33 points at the Ricoh Arena in Wasps’ first league game in Coventry back in December 2014, gave his thoughts on what has sparked such a sudden upturn inform.
“It’s a phenomenal turnaround,” he said. “I’ve chatted to a few of the boys, what is the difference? Structurally there isn’t too much difference, Lee was the attack coach under Dai. He’s just given belief and confidence to the players.
“I chatted to Jimmy Gopperth for about an hour last week and he was saying it was difficult to say what has changed except for maybe an energy, there’s a no-fear environment now at Wasps. Where you can go and try things. Perhaps before, and I was coached by Dai, Dai will give you licence to go and play as you see, but ultimately at some point there has to come a time when you keep banging your head against a brick wall nothing changes. He’s not scared of the old hair dryer at times.
“Perhaps with the fact Dai had been there for quite a long time, you change a few things, Lee comes in, he’s a happy jovial guy. He is someone who wants to give power to the players and let them run the ship and give them confidence to do that.”
Goode placed specific focus on the role Jacob Umaga is playing in the squad under Blackett. The 22-year-old has scored six tries in the new regime and has gone from strength to strength as an attacking leader.
“Jacob’s the most laid back character you can meet yet he’s steering the ship” added Goode. “When you put him in and around players like Jimmy Gopperth outside him then Dan Robson inside him, you give him that belief that, actually, if you make that error mate it doesn’t matter. Just don’t make that error four or five times on the spin. Try things, he wants them to do that, that gives the players belief and confidence and I think that’s all the difference is really.
“Dai put this squad together. You look at the starting line-up, Dai signed them all, you’ve still got to respect what Dai’s done. But ultimately, Derek [Richardson] and Stephen Vaughan, felt like a change needed to be made. When they were in the position they were in pre-lockdown, when they made that change they were down in tenth, it has been a remarkable turnaround.”
Goode also pointed to the parts the global pandemic and luck have played in the stunning run of results.
He added: “Covid has helped. It sounds awful to say that, but they changed their momentum pre-lockdown with a few decent wins.
“They’ve made some changes behind the scenes as well in the S&C department, that has freshened things up, not that the old guys didn’t do a great job because they did, Dan Baugh [Wasps’ former head of strength and conditioning] is a brilliant bloke. But people move on, times change and there’s a fresh emphasis and focus around the squad since coming back from lockdown.
“We’ve ridden a bit of luck, you look at the Bath game and I think even Lee Blackett will sit there and think; how did we win that game? Bath kind of imploded. But you ride your luck, perhaps where it wasn’t going for us earlier in the season, when your luck is down, that’s changed as well with a bit of confidence and belief when you finish second in the league and we’re the form side effectively.”
BT Sport is the home of the Gallagher Premiership Rugby. BT Sport 1 will broadcast both semi-final fixtures on Saturday 10th October with Wasps v Bristol Bears from 1.00pm and Exeter Chiefs v Bath from 3.45pm