Wasps teenage sensation Charlie Atkinson has been warned to curb his enthusiasm and remove ‘stupid’ parts of his game.
The 19-year-old is still a member of the club’s senior academy but has featured prominently from the start in Wasps’ recent wins against the Dragons, Montpellier and Sale Sharks.
He has maintained Wasps’ tryscoring threat from the 10 shirt with scores in his last two games while Jacob Umaga took his mandatory two-week break for his off-season spent in the England camp this autumn.
Atkinson has also shown a willingness to put his shoulder in where it hurts and punches well above his weight in defence.
However, that commitment to the other side of his game is something head coach Lee Blackett addressed in the post-match review of Wasps’ 26-23 win at the AJ Bell.
“I used the word stupid with him,” he said. “The pick-and-gos that Sale were doing at the weekend he’s getting himself in at guard to make tackles and he’s pushing Will Rowlands out the way to make a tackle!”
The player who replaced Atkinson with seven minutes remaining had already celebrated his 18th birthday when Atkinson entered the world in October 2001, and provides an ongoing reminder of what can be achieved if you look after your body as he continues to be a key performer despite turning 38 next summer.
“I just had to remind him if he wants a career like Jimmy Gopperth get yourself out of there pal [away from the breakdown],” added Blackett. “Let the forwards make those tackles!
“But that’s Charlie, the one thing you’ll definitely say is he’s as tough as they come but we knew that anyway but defensively he’s not been found for lack of physicality.”
Blackett revealed Wasps had planned to start the Abingdon School product at home to Montpellier but a combination of his impressive form in training and Umaga’s unavailability had persuaded coaches to bring that schedule forwards to their first European game, against the Dragons.
Last weekend he outshone his more experienced counterpart AJ MacGinty and racked up the most defenders beaten in the Premiership with nine against Sale. That included three in one play at the start of the second half, as he scored the try that turned the game in Wasps’ favour, the first of 17 points in a 20-minute spell that saw Sale score only three in reply.
“Did I know how good he was at getting to the line and taking people on and show and go?” said Blackett. “I thought he’d be good in that area but he’s shown that he’s actually a little bit better than what I thought.”