The Big Interview: Joe Simpson on Wasps, weddings and what comes next
It’s been a busy few weeks for Joe Simpson.
Newly-engaged to his fiancée Emily, the Wasps scrum-half has a wedding to plan, then the small matter of a move to Gloucester Rugby for next season to work out.
But for now, all of that goes on the back-burner and his entire focus is on Wasps, the club he has called home since the age of 15.
And this weekend against Leicester Tigers, he brings up 250 appearances for the club.
With his move to Kingsholm on the horizon, he will never get to top the tally of professional-era leaders Lawrence Dallaglio and Simon Shaw.
It’s been an absolute privilege to play for the club I supported as a youngster and grew to love. So many fantastic memories on and off the field. I will be forever indebted to Wasps and everyone involved. It’s been a second home for me since I was 15. 🐝 pic.twitter.com/UZbONcFLvb
— Joe Simpson (@joesimpson9) February 6, 2019
But this weekend is a milestone he will remember for a long time.
“I have not really given it too much thought,” he admitted.
“The Leicester match has taken up all my interest this week. But it is something I am hugely proud of.
“It would have been nice to get a few more and pip Shawsy or Dallaglio, but I think they are on a freak-ish amount, 300 or more.
“I never expected to get to this number, I never even really thought about it when I was starting in the academy.
“I didn’t think it was a possibility, so it is a very humbling experience to have your name up above those other legends of Wasps.”
Hitting such a major landmark for his boyhood club does throw his decision to leave this summer into sharper focus.
But with game-time dwindling at the Ricoh behind Dan Robson and Craig Hampson, Simpson felt the moment was right for a new challenge.
Read more from the most exciting club rugby League in the world:
- Rob Webber signs contract extension with Sale Sharks
- Doyle on the whistle for Midlands derby
- Vote for your Gallagher Premiership Rugby player of the month for February!
And his move to Gloucester, which was only announced at the start of this month and will see Ben Vellacott move in the opposite direction, has cleared his mind for the rest of the campaign.
“It was a tough decision but I felt at the time it was right for me to experience something new that I could contribute to,” he added.
“Wasps will always be the club that I support, the club when I am retired in six or seven years’ time, hopefully, that I will be coming back to watch, following on the TV and the radio.
“I feel I have got plenty of rugby left in me as well, so who knows in two or three years’ time? Maybe I could be back here.
“It was tough to leave but I wanted to feature more heavily on the pitch.
“Dan (Robson) has been playing tremendously well so that had a big bearing on my decision.
“But I am enjoying playing now – hopefully I can continue that and prove I still have a lot to give and when Dan comes back it would be great to be able to use both of us.
“I feel that we offer similar things, so using us in conjunction was when we were both at our best for Wasps.”
Simpson went over for a try last weekend but Wasps slipped to defeat at home to Sale Sharks.
That means that Dai Young’s side are down in sixth in the Gallagher Premiership Rugby table but Simpson is confident that is not going to be the case for long.
“We fully believe and I am confident that we will still make the top four. We have got enough quality to do it but it won’t be easy,” he added.
“We have had new players in important positions and lost leaders like Cips [Danny Cipriani] and Jimmy (Gopperth) this season, the injuries have been bad as well.
“There are other factors too but we cannot be in the business of making excuses, this is elite sport and we have to find a way to make it happen.
“The mood is not quite so strong, you can see with the performances this season that heads are quicker to drop and the confidence is slightly lower.
“Just because we are into getting those wins week-in and week-out and not smashing teams like we have done in the past.
“A team playing with low confidence, particularly for the brand of rugby that we like to play, it does make life a lot harder.”
But if Simpson and co can start to string together some 80-minute performances, then the semi-finals are still a viable option.
And with his wedding to come next year, Simpson is still dreaming of a double celebration.
“I am wedding planning at the moment so that is taking a lot of time and stress,” he added.
“But having nailed down my future, it enables me to concentrate on being in the best place to contribute for Wasps and really enjoy my last few games for them.
“I want to finish on a high and get us into the semi-finals – and then who knows?
“I am sure it will be plain sailing planning a wedding and moving house, what could possibly go wrong?
“The wedding will be next summer but places get booked up fast, the Excel spreadsheet is up and running, it’s been all wedding admin for the last week. I’m exhausted!”
Record Wasps appearance makers in the professional era:
1 Lawrence Dallaglio 341
2 Simon Shaw 339
3 Joe Worsley 314
4 Alex King 269
5 Josh Lewsey 266
6 Tim Payne 266
7 Will Green 259
7 Richard Birkett 259
9 Mark van Gisbergen 249
9 Joe Simpson 249