Leicester 20 Wasps 19: Varndell 'ready for Test rugby'

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The Independent Online

Tom Varndell booked his passage to Australia with England this summer with all the certainty Tony O'Reilly did for the Lions when they set sail for South Africa 51 years ago. In that era, O'Reilly was a try-poacher without peer. Varndell's first-half hat-trick of tries in this rearranged Premiership match, at Welford Road on Saturday, would have had O'Reilly and the Lions' selectors in that golden age drooling in admiration.

There was certainly no lack of appreciation on the part of Leicester any more than there was by the Wasps' director of rugby, Ian McGeechan. "We blew about three chances in the second half," McGeechan said, "and Tom Varndell would have taken them all".

In 17 Premiership games this season, the 20-year-old has scored 12 tries to top the competition's try-scoring chart and put Leicester at the head of the team list.

"There is a lot more to come from Tom," reflected Pat Howard, Leicester's head coach. "He has so much potential, and I believe he is ready now for Test match rugby."

Varndell, feet firmly on the ground, was a model of self-effacement. "We had a good first half and I happened to be in the right place at the right time," he said.

Not much went right for Wasps during that period. If Andy Goode had been on anything like his usual kicking form, Leicester would have been out of sight, but Goode missed with four from six off the floor, so Wasps were still in the hunt until deep into the second half, thanks to a try from Paul Sackey.

In a resolute rearguard action, Leicester obdurately ensured a narrow victory which takes them up to second in the table, five points behind Sale.

Leicester: Tries Varndell 3; Conversion Goode; Penalty Goode. Wasps: Try Sackey; Conversion Van Gisbergen; Penalties Van Gisbergen 4.

Leicester: A Goode; A Tuilagi (L Lloyd, 48), O Smith (M Cornwell, 64), S Vesty, T Varndell; A Healey (D Gibson, 51), S Bemaand; M Holford, J Buckland (G Chuter, 48), J White, L Cullen (J Hamilton, 64), B Kay, L Deacon, S Jennings (W Skinner 71), M Corry (capt).

Wasps: M van Gisbergen; P Sackey, A Erinle, R Hoadley, T Evans (S Abbott, 55); J Staunton, E Reddan; T Payne (P Bracken, 68), R Ibañez (J Ward, 54), P Bracken (J Va'a, 59), S Shaw, R Birkett, D Leo, M Lock, L Dallaglio (capt).

Referee: D Pearson (Northumberland)