New Wasps skipper Joe Launchbury is hoping to add some defensive grit to his side’s attacking flair as they go in search of the Aviva Premiership Rugby title.
The Coventry-based side have added several high-profile names to their backline recognised for their attacking flair, but Launchbury knows defence will also have a significant part to play.
Former Australia defence and skills coach, Phil Blake, was added to the backroom staff at the Ricoh Arena over the summer and Launchbury is backing his influence to help cement Wasps’ place in the top half of the table.
“He’s got his own ideas in terms of how he wants to defend, so that’s going to take that part of our game up a level, while hopefully keeping our attacking part of the game,” said the England international.
“You can perhaps sneak into the top four, one year, or a couple of years, by just relying on a great attack, but in
this league top sides have great defences who don’t give away many points.
“The points they do give away, teams have to work exceptionally hard for. And that is probably the next level for us.
“We had a good defence last year but statistics-wise we want to improve that, and climb up the ladder in terms of defence, in order to keep the reliance on our attack down.”
The club have also bolstered their attacking ranks this summer though, with high-profile additions coming in the form of Kurtley Beale, Danny Cipriani and Kyle Eastmond.
And with those additions, Launchbury admits Wasps can no longer make excuses for any dips in performance.
“They like to have the ball in their hands and play rugby,” he said of the new attacking trio.
“That’s what we like to do, and how we like to play, so hopefully they’ll fit in well and get involved in how we want to play.
“The club is growing quicker than I think we thought it would.
“A couple of years ago, the way the club was, was very well publicised. But now the funding we have off the pitch, the direction Dai has taken the squad in, and the recruitment we are making year on year, is giving our squad great depth and great talent.
“There are no excuses now on the pitch. We have to perform and go out every weekend and play like a team who have ambition.”
Wasps open their Aviva Premiership campaign with fixtures against Exeter Chiefs, Leicester Tigers, newly-promoted Bristol Rugby and then Northampton Saints.
With such a challenging run of fixtures to start the season, Launchbury expressed the need to get early wins on the board.
“Expectation this year will go up again, from the outside, and probably rightly so. We’ve recruited well again and got a strong squad, but this league is hard,” added the 25-year-old.
“The league has no easy games. Our first few games are tough, but exciting at the same time.
“It’s very important to get points on the board early. We’re looking good at the moment, though.”
Aviva Premiership Rugby returns this weekend. For a full fixture list please click here