Wasps have strengthened their coaching team ahead of the new campaign. Director of Rugby Dai Young has appointed his new defence coach and added an extra forwards coach to the team, as the club continues its drive to improve and to build on the progress made over the past couple of seasons.
Former Wallaby defence and skills coach, Phil Blake, has been appointed as Wasps’ defence coach, taking over from Brad Davis who joins Ospreys this summer.
Dan Richmond, who was part of the Argentina coaching team that guided the Pumas to the 2015 Rugby World Cup Semi Final, will provide another valuable source of expertise for the forwards, working alongside Andy Titterrell who has been promoted to a full-time coaching role.
Richmond played nine seasons with Northampton Saints and also represented Bath and Bedford Blues, where he began his coaching career. The former hooker has gone on to develop a strong reputation for his set-piece results during his consultancy work at Worcester Warriors and Sale Sharks over the past three years.
Blake, who most recently coached in the Aviva Premiership with Leicester Tigers, enjoyed an impressive playing career in rugby league between 1982 and 1997, representing Manly-Warringah, South Sydney, North Sydney, Canberra Raiders, St. George Warrington, Wigan and Auckland Warriors.
Having started his coaching career in league with South Sydney Rabbitohs, Blake made the transition to union in 2006, as assistant coach for Southern Districts. In 2010, he led Manly to the Shute Shield Semi Finals as head coach and then enjoyed a spell coaching Western Force before re-joining Manly.
He was appointed Leicester Tigers defence coach in June 2014, but incurred a six-month ban from rugby the following year for breaching RFU betting rules. The suspension has been served and Blake is able to start afresh with Wasps as they embark on the 2016/17 Aviva Premiership campaign.
Phil Blake said: "I’m really looking forward to working with Dai [Young] and his coaching team and to being part of something that is looking quite special. A couple of years ago, when I was first coaching in the Premiership with Leicester, Wasps were going through some hard times and it’s fantastic to see how they’ve turned it around. Last season, it must have been very exciting for the players and fans and I hope I can make an impact in some small way and help this great club to flourish.
"I’m excited about being involved in the Premiership and European Champions Cup again. The ban was well documented. It was a horrible period in my life, which I will always regret. I made a mistake, which I’ve learned from, and you just have to forge a way forward, move on and never repeat it.
"I feel fortunate to have this opportunity from Dai and am looking forward to the brief he has given me. There are really good foundations for the club to build on after the team reached two semi finals, but from speaking to Dai and knowing where the club wants to get to, that’s hopefully just the start of it. Everyone will want to keep moving forward, to progress to Finals and hopefully to silverware. That won’t be easy, it will be a lot of hard work, but I’m sure everyone will be up for the challenge."
Speaking about the appointment, Wasps’ Director of Rugby Dai Young said: "To be able to bring in a coach of Phil’s knowledge and ability is really pleasing," he said. "Phil is a highly-rated coach within both league and union circles and I am sure his experience will be a beneficial addition to our relatively young coaching group. We’re looking forward to welcoming him on board and to seeing him build on the good work Brad [Davis] has done here over the past couple of years.
"I am also really pleased that Dan Richmond became available and we are looking forward to adding him to our coaching ranks in a full-time role. He is building an impressive reputation as a scrum and lineout coach and has bags of potential. He’s done a really good job in his consultancy work with Worcester and Sale, who had one of the best scrums in the Premiership last season, so you can see the positive impact he’s had there working alongside Steve Diamond.
"When we conducted our end of season review, we felt we needed to expand our coaching group to ensure we have enough personnel to maintain last season’s standards and to keep the club moving forward. It’s a game of such fine margins and attention to detail is everything when you are looking for an edge. Traditionally, we’ve had a small coaching group in comparison to some of the other clubs and I felt I was spreading myself a little thin as DoR, head coach and forwards coach, so I wanted to address that and make sure our players have the resource and analysis they need to take their games to the next level.
"We considered recruiting a grizzly, experienced forwards coach to add to the team, but very few are available and I have been so impressed by Andy Titterrell who has done a really good job in his part-time role, that I felt I would rather promote from within and make him full-time. Then, by recruiting another respected young coach we can share the responsibility for day-to-day analysis and one-to-one work, while I continue to oversee the forwards’ development. Similar to our backs coach, Lee Blackett, Andy and Dan are two hungry young coaches, with a very strong work ethic and bags of enthusiasm and I am sure they will work very well together."
As he joined up with the squad, Richmond said: "I’m really looking forward to working under Dai and alongside Andy [Titterrell] and can’t wait to get started.
"The club enjoyed a tremendous season last year. Now the focus will be on how we gain those one or two percent improvements in order to put the club in a position to move on again this season.
"Within the modern game, there’s so much analysis that needs to be done behind the scenes to give a clear and concise picture to the players. It’s definitely more than a one-man job to be able to do it properly when you think of the level of detail we’re striving for. It’s about working together collectively to help give the players the opportunities to perform to their best on the pitch and it’s an exciting team to be part of."