By Tom Benthal
Wasps’ 32-6 demolition of Toulon recently shows their move away from Adams Park has propelled them back towards the top of European rugby.
Coming off the back of a 33-6 win at Leinster the previous week, Dai Young’s side could hardly have imagined a better result against the reigning European champions, with the bonus point win taking them four points clear at the top of pool five.
“I think we have shown everybody that we are a quality team,” he told Wasps’ website.
“Things have started to become a lot more fluent for us over the last couple of weeks. We are starting to become a lot more comfortable with the ball in hand. It’s the way we want to play, we want to play with ball in hand and obviously you have to defend hard as well.”
Having won the European Cup (then called the Heineken Cup) in 2004 and 2007, Wasps have endured a tough few years, including being close to bankruptcy having just £65 in the bank.
However a move away from their traditional Adams Park home in High Wycombe last season, 80 miles up the M40 to Coventry, has returned Wasps to being a dominant European force.
While the move was met with criticism at the time, those critics have been significantly muted over recent weeks, with the extra revenue generated allowing big name signings including All Blacks Charles Piutau and Frank Halai to come in.
Piutau is only with Young’s side for the current season, having agreed to join Ulster for the 2016-17 season, but having had an immediate impact, including scoring against Leinster and setting up Halai to score against Toulon, the Wasps faithful will not be complaining too much.
The prominence of Wasps’ international signings has not been the only reason for their upturn in fortunes though, with many of their promising youngsters coming of age.
In Christian Wade and Elliott Daly, they have two of England’s most dangerous outside backs, both of whom have turned vast potential over the last few years, into consistently high level performances.
From averaging crowds around 5,000 people at Adams Park, the move to the Ricoh Arena – with crowds reaching in excess of 20,000 – has not only given Young financial backing, but looks to have given his side the springboard they needed to return to the top of European rugby.