Wasps ensured a top-six finish in Aviva Premiership Rugby on the final day last season but as his young squad continues to progress, director of rugby Dai Young believes the gap is closing to the top four.
An enthralling 40-40 draw with London Irish secured sixth spot back in May although Wasps were in with a chance of a top four spot until the last couple weeks – ultimately only finishing seven points behind fourth-placed Saracens.
Importantly, coming sixth did guarantee Young’s troops Champions Cup rugby this term and after signing a number of players over the summer, including Australia’s 111-cap back-rower George Smith and All Black Charles Piutau, their squad appears to be even stronger.
Young knows there is still work to be done as Wasps won just two away league games in 2014/15 while only triumphing twice in eight matches with sides who finished in the top four.
But the Welshman insists there is a long-term plan and that his team are headed in the right direction, even if it won’t be easy to unseat the big boys.
“We’re on a bit of a journey and it’s one step at a time,” explained Young, speaking at the official Aviva Premiership Rugby launch at the Twickenham Stoop on Thursday. “Top six was always our goal last season.
“We were in with a shout for the top four with six weeks to go but if you looked at our fixtures over the last stretch, it was always going to be tough.
“I think we only won two games against the top four teams last year, so there’s still a little bit of a gap between us and the top four if we’re being realistic but we like to think we’ve closed the gap a little bit this season.
“We’ve recruited well but I suppose the other teams have also recruited well, so you don’t quite know where the situation is going to be.
“We want to be consistently in the top six and consistently playing European rugby but the big task for us is then to split up the monopoly of the top four because it has been quite consistent.”
In addition to Smith and Piutau, Wasps have also recruited the likes of All Black winger Frank Halai, scrum-half Dan Robson from Gloucester Rugby and fly-half Jimmy Gopperth from Leinster.
They open up the season with a trip to face Harlequins at the Twickenham Stoop next Friday in what will be an early litmus test for the team.
And Young believes that the addition of vital experience to a talented young squad will pay dividends moving forward.
“We’re still waiting for the two Kiwi boys to come on board and we still have some players away on international duty but we’re pleased with the recruitment over the summer,” added Young.
“It’s a young squad but they’ve been together for a couple of years so they’re getting more and more comfortable playing in the Premiership.
“Then we’ve added a little bit of experience and stardust to it, so hopefully they will gel really well together and get on together.
“There seems to be a real team spirit already but the best way to keep that going is to get results. Everyone will bed in a lot quicker if we’re getting wins!”
The 2015-16 Aviva Premiership Rugby Season kicks off on 16 October. To see all of the fixtures click here.