Edwards keen to keep English flag flying against 'Wales in blue'
Wednesday 28 April 2010
When it comes to flying the flag, no club does it better than Wasps.
A 60,000 Twickenham crowd created a fabulous atmosphere at the club's superbly organised St George's Day game last weekend during which the England banner was everywhere to be seen – unlike English clubs in Europe this weekend.
The Heineken Cup, which Wasps have won twice, contains no English representatives in the semi-finals this weekend for the first time since 2003. Wasps are the nation's sole remaining European competitor and they face Cardiff Blues on Saturday in the Amlin Challenge Cup semi-final at Adams Park.
"A team from the capital of England against a team from the capital of Wales," as the Wasps coach, Shaun Edwards, described the tie. He also described the task facing his team as "massive". "We are taking on a full international team, one containing some of the best players in the game, and in Gethin Jenkins, the best loosehead prop in the world.
"I should know, I work with most of these guys on a regular basis in my capacity as a Wales coach. We have our work cut out, but the opportunity to end the season with a trophy is there, along with the fact that we've qualified for the Heineken Cup next season. I just don't get it when people suggest we're having a disappointing season."
If Wasps go on and win what used to be known as the European Challenge Cup, it would be their 11th major trophy since the turn of the century, an outstanding statistic from the only club to have stood between Leicester and total domination of the English domestic game for most of the decade.
Edwards, involved in so many of those Wasps triumphs alongside a succession of rugby directors – Warren Gatland, Ian McGeechan and now Tony Hanks – insists the Challenge Cup is a stronger all-round competition than before and therefore all the more worthwhile to win. "When you introduce teams who have just missed out during the Heineken Cup pool stages," he said, "it enhances this tournament. We have Toulon, the best team in France on form at the moment, seeking a place in the final. That's the measure of the competition now."
Hanks admits to disappointment at the way the St George's Day bash turned out on the field, a whopping 35-19 defeat by Bath, but believes there is evidence to suggest his players have the character to make that experience work to their advantage against Cardiff.
"We weren't clinical enough, failed to respect the ball and were not accurate enough in defence. But when you take the emotion out of the equation and analyse the game overall, we showed character to come back from a very poor start.
"It's been a difficult campaign in terms of injuries and absentees on Test duties. But we are in the mix for a trophy again."
The veteran prop Phil Vickery, 34, missed most of the season following neck surgery and has only just returned to action these past two weeks. The former England captain has achieved everything in the game – World Cup winner, World Cup runner-up, Six Nations title triumphs, Heineken Cups, Premiership titles, RFU Cup triumphs and playing for his beloved Lions.
Yet old "Raging Bull" can't help pawing the ground in anticipation. "This is like playing Wales wearing blue jerseys instead of red," he said. "I've fought alongside some of these guys for the Lions and fought against them playing for England. This is a game where uncapped players will be in a distinct minority. I'm a very proud Englishman, and I make no bones about it. Saturday we're flying the flag."
Raheem Sterling to Manchester City: Winger to report for Liverpool training on today but Reds braced for third City bid this week
Women's World Cup 2015: England secure third place as they beat Germany in extra time with penalty by Fara Williams
Liverpool to confirm Sean O'Driscoll and Pep Lijnders for Brendan Rodgers' backroom coaching staff
Manchester City transfer news: City determined to sign Paul Pogba and meet £71m British transfer record
PornHub begs users to stop uploading video clips of Brazil getting beaten 7-1
- 1 Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
- 2 What supermodels really think about posing in the nude
- 3 North Korean defector flees to Finland 'with evidence of chemical testing on humans'
- 5 Swedish minister gives strongest case yet on why EU should stop turning away asylum seekers
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture