TOP BAR - Fixtures

Varndell: Rivalry can stoke up strong Ricoh crowd

An Olympic Games may eventually prove too tempting for Tom Varndell but the winger insists his next big challenge is to ensure Wasps begin life in Coventry with a bang.

Varndell, who represented England in the World Sevens Series back in 2005 before going on to play at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, has made no secret of his desire to be involved at Rio 2016.

But the 29-year-old remains one of the Premiership’s – and more importantly Wasps’ – most prolific try scorers, already adding five this season to take his overall Premiership tally to 80 scores.

Varndell has been a leading voice from within the dressing room since news broke of the club’s move to the Midlands, urging fans to see the benefits behind such a change.

And now with the first fixture at their new home just around the corner, Varndell is desperate to repay the supporters for their loyalty with a win against London Irish on their Ricoh Arena debut. 

“It has been really positive from the players, the management and the supporters,” said Varndell.

“When the news first broke there was a lot of upset and a bit of an uproar from the supporters, especially the ones who had been lifelong fans or followed the club for many years.

“Slowly but surely people have realised that for the club to have a future and financial stability we needed our own stadium and unfortunately that was found outside London.

“We’ve visited the Ricoh Arena and it’s a fantastic set-up both for playing and for building a business for the club going forwards.

“It’s exciting and to sell over 27,000 tickets is fantastic. It’s important that the fans are looked after as obviously they are the backbone of the club, they are the support base that the club is built on.

“It’s good that we’re playing our rivals and that’s going to make the game that bit bigger, especially for the London-based supporters making the journey up to Coventry.

“Rio is definitely very appealing so I would never say never, and I would love to play in an Olympic games.

“I was lucky enough to play in a Commonwealth Games in Melbourne so I’d love to play in another big event like the Olympics and I don’t think I’m too old so I could maybe do a job if they wanted me to.”

It is perhaps fitting that Wasps begin life at the Ricoh against another side that have moved away from London to find a new home – Irish having relocated to Reading’s Madejski Stadium in 2000.

A typical derby game awaits but Varndell believes given the occasion and extra support his side should have, Wasps will be more motivated than ever to get the victory.   

“London Irish are a club that have had the same experience we’ve had – they had to move out of London to sustain themselves and they’ve done that very well at the Madejski, which is actually a very similar stadium to the Ricoh,” he added.

“It’s a must-win game for us given how tight the league is. There will be the added excitement of playing on our new ground with a new atmosphere in a new era for the club.”

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