>>Strengths: Leadership/Coaching, Squad, Resources.
>>Weaknesses: Balance of the team (reliance on a few key players).
>>Pluses this year: Confidence,
>> Another year's development of young players,
>> Some good player acquisitions.
>>Negatives this year: One of the "teams to beat",
>> New players to integrate,
>> Halfbacks unhappy summer England tour.
>It will be very interesting to see how Wasps integrate their new
>locks, Shaw and someone from NZ (?). With a relatively inexperienced
>front row, and two new locks the tight five, although improved on
>paper, might struggle to settle down. With only one game before the
>European Cup takes over, the side might have gelled by the time the
>league recommences, but at the cost of Europe ambitions (not that that
>harmed their league chances last season).
Wasps' pack was surprisingly competitive last season, and I do wonder what
effect losing players like Matt Greenwood will have -- not just in losing
someone who is a real trooper but also because players like have have been
the core of the club.
There will be a lot of pressure on Buster White to repeat his fantastic
form of a year ago, while I think sides may be more aware of Rees'
limitations as a fullback.
I'm looking forward to seeing how King, Henderson and Greenstock shape up
as a midfield combination.
>I really hope Sampson and Scrivener get a couple of games this season
Sampson apparently spent the latter part of the season struggling with
injury, which supposedly explained why he made way for Logan. I hope that
he is pushed ahead this year, with his incredible pace, and terrific
all-round talents he should be on a fast track (literally) to bigger
things. Scrivener (and Dallaglio) looked to have secure futures when Ryan
left but the arrival of Sheasby left him as the odd man out a little. Hard
to imagine him happy sitting on the bench forever, one of the problems
Wasps will have this year is keeping everyone satisfied -- especially if
things aren't looking as bright as last year.
>>Weaknesses: Lack of depth in key positions, Inconsistency.
>Some interesting players have joined, the West Hartlepool openside
>Earnshaw (???) and Regan from Bristol. Also there are rumours Gregor
>Townsend and Brian Lima are being tempted further west than is decent.
The Townsend rumour sounds like a bit of a non-starter -- why leave one
club unhappy at not getting a guaranteed place at flyhalf and arrive
someone else not even guaranteed to make the starting team? Cardiff sounds
much more the likely option, since Jonathan Davies and Lee Jarvis will be
happily shunted aside by them for Townsend I would think.
>With Mendez, Llanes, and Lyle all non EC-European (unless someone
>knows different?), there looks like little room for a Western Samoan
>at the Rec.
Well thank goodness Bath have recruited a player who can fill the gap at
openside flanker, as for the story of them chasing Lima, I think he would
be a good addition but personally I would think that another scrumhalf
would top the shopping list.
>> Doubts about coaching/management,
>I assume the guy who backed up McGeechan for the Lions will be in
>charge? Kirsten or something like that? If Will Carling takes over
>then I'll predict another underachieving year.
Andy Keast? Well let's just call him Mr K shall we. But anyway, if Carling
has a big hand in the coaching then I can't imagine anything but short term
problems. It is also a difficult situation, how many coaches will want to
walk into the environment created by the players saying they didn't think
*** Best was being nice enough to them so he had to go?
>>Strengths: Settled strong core, Coaching
>>Weaknesses: Gameplan when under pressure,
>> Potential again for high demands on key players.
>>Pluses this year: Understand coaches expectations/requirements,
>> Quality players drafted in to fill requirements.
>>Negatives this year: Poor end to last season,
>> Question marks over some positions.
>Maybe the biggest strategic plus is that Dwyer now has a much better
>understanding of the requirements. As for the back row, it makes me
>drool to think about it.....even with Deano only on the bench.
Yes as a noted Tigerphobe, Martin Corry is making life difficult for me :-)
first Bristol, now Leicester, where next Harlequins? :-) Anyway, sadly for
Corry, Dallaglio had a huge year and so now only an injury or severe loss
of form can open up a route into the blindside slot. Quite a change for
Back I should imagine playing off Miller and Corry instead of Richards and
>There's little to add except that Van Heerden has got an EC
>passport-holding wife, which makes him a "non-foreigner" for team
>selection purposes. Apparently there are hopes Stransky might sneak in
>as a European owing to family ties. Talk about the Law being "a ass".
>On the other hand, Vunibaka is struggling to get a work permit as he
>has "only" played 7s for Fiji and doesn't count as an international
>There are some expectations that Eric Rush will sign in the next few
>days. Friday is the deadline for registering players for the European
A lot of eggs in the Serevi at fullback basket, and I would think the
midfield cover is looking a little thin at this stage. Is Niall Malone
going to be the Jack-of-all-trades in the backline and again, and will he
be happy being first reserve everything rather than first choice anything?
>>Negatives this year: Loss of talent,
>> Perhaps aiming low (survival).
>Last year it was Wests and Orrell I felt greatest sympathy for. This
>time it's Bristol. How can they lose Wright, Shaw, Corry and, I
>suppose, Regan and survive? At least they do have some rapidly
>developing backs, and a highly experienced captain in Rob Jones, who
>has spurned the Bath shilling.
Well I do feel somewhat sorry for Bristol, especially for Alan Davies who
seems to have ended up with bad luck in variety of different situations.
Things are grim when your captain leaves to play elsewhere for less money
(as was the case with Corry). It's pretty hard under those circumstances to
get the decent people to stay, let alone get other good players to join.
You tend to end up with the sort of mercenaries who add little to the club
in the long run, so I hope for Bristol's sake they don't start to slide
down the divisions.
>You didn't mention London Irish, Ben. After their survival last
>season, they should be in good spirits (just for once), but I haven't
>heard of many new players joining. At least I haven't heard that
>Davidson has left yet, either.
In case you missed it, here was what I put:
Strengths: Some potential match winning players.
Weaknesses: Not enough of them.
Pluses this year: Low expectations (might thrive as underdogs),
Coach Willie Anderson is settled in.
Negatives this year: Potential of conflict between Ashton's Irish style and
Some voids from previous player departures not obviously
I think London Irish really will want a very positive start to the season.
They have some very good players, but keeping them if things go badly could
become a problem.
>So what about predictions for next season? I guess the title will most
>likely go to Bath, Leicester or Wasps.
Probably, with Harlequins as an outside bet -- if they keep buying players
they may one day chance upon a good combination.
I think injuries will be a huge factor this year, Bath without Nichol, or
Saracens without Lynagh, Harlequins losing Lacroix, and on and on, heck
Leicester looked a very different pack when Johnson wasn't putting himself
about as usual. Most of the top sides don't have real depth in all
positions -- it's getting harder to find players prepared to sit on the
bench behind established first choice automatic selections. One of the
things that Wasps really had in their favour was the ability to juggle
their squad well, but I think this year players like Dallaglio and King
will become more *** and therefore also more crucial.
What will be interesting is whether a side manages to win as many as Wasps
did last year. I have a feeling that things will be very even, and that of
course ultimately favours the sides like Bath who are capable on the day of
racking up big scorelines.
Once again the bottom of table is likely to involve a bit of a scramble --
the two near-misses last year must head the list for the drop at the start
of this season. Bristol I would think are favourites for relegation at this
stage, just because they didn't do that well last year and have lost so
many players since. London Irish seem more likely to end up in the bottom
half of the table again [again whatever improvements they made over the
course of last season even slight progress in the current situation means
relatively you still fall increasingly behind the rest], and thus be in
frame for the drop. I think Northampton might be worried, they can
certainly beat anyone on the day but inconsistency, especially their
inability to win away, will hurt them.
Is it two down plus two playoff again? If so there might be some very good
sides forced to fight for their survival come the end of the season.
>I can't see Newcastle or
>Richmond hitting the ground running, though they will prove good
>outside bets for
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