Blackett: Wasps can turn a corner at Premiership Rugby 7s
Any lingering sense of unfinished business in Gallagher Premiership Rugby can be quashed with Sevens success this weekend, according to Wasps attack and backs coach Lee Blackett.
The Coventry-based side ended a turbulent domestic campaign in eighth place last time out, while also exiting the Premiership Rugby and European Champions Cup competitions at the pool stages.
In response, director of rugby Dai Young has overseen 16 outgoings and 19 incomings at the club during the off-season, with eight academy products being promoted to the first-team set up.
And having endured a long build up to the new season, Wasps get their first taste of match action at the Premiership Rugby Sevens at Franklin’s Gardens in Northampton.
Blackett explains he is encouraged by what he has witnessed on the training pitch over the past few weeks, and insists a good showing in the shorter format will tee the side up nicely as they hunt for glory on all fronts this campaign.
“This is my fifth year with Wasps and it’s probably the best pre-season I’ve been involved in,” the 36-year-old said. “There’s just been a real focus all round.
“I think we’ve taken the frustrations from last year and found that little bit extra – everyone’s absolutely desperate not to go through that again.
“The Sevens tournament is key preparation for the start of the season and for the whole bigger picture of the club.
“We perhaps focused too much on the Premiership and Europe last year, but we’ve been clear we want success in every competition this time out.
“That starts at Franklin’s Gardens and I’m really excited for it to get going. It’s going to be great to see some of the guys wear the black and gold for the first time and for some of the young guys to get a chance on the big stage.”
Wasps have carved a reputation as one of the most feared sides in the shorter format.
With two wins and four final appearances in the last four years at the Sevens tournament, they will once again arrive in Northampton among the teams to beat despite coming up short against Saracens last season.
Blackett insists his side are concentrating on blooding new talent in preparation for the fresh campaign, while suggesting the World Cup could impact certain sides’ prospects.
He said: “We’ve famously put out some strong sides in this competition in the past, but last year was probably the proudest we’ve actually been as a club.
“We gave a chance to a lot of our younger guys and they did really well. It’s a great opportunity to integrate new guys into our squad and see them perform for Wasps for the first time.
“We obviously want to do as well as possible, but it’ll be a completely different competition to was last year, and we’ll just take it game by game.
“I think with the length of pre-season this year we’ll see some stronger sides because some of the first-teamers will want to see some action, while some of the England under-20s boys could play too.
“We just want our players to go out, express themselves, put their bodies on the line and then hopefully we’ll have the quality to match.”
While acknowledging its value for preparing a team for the impending Gallagher Premiership Rugby season – in which Wasps start at home to London Irish on October 20 – Blackett admits the unique nature of the Sevens tournament makes it such an exciting prospect.
“It’s been a great tournament for many years,” he said. “It’s a date that a lot of clubs look out for and look forward to competing at.
“In the 15-a-side game, there’s a lot of video work that goes on, but this is completely different – our preparation is all about ourselves.
“It’s going to be a great tournament and as a team we can’t get wait to finally get the new rugby season underway.”
See all 2019 Premiership Rugby 7s fixtures here: https://www.premiershiprugby.com/other-competitions/premiership-rugby-7s/#fixtures_&_results