Varndell joins Wasps to revive England career

Speedy winger desperate to force his way back into Martin Johnson's plans
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The Independent Online

While Ian McGeechan was on Lions duty in Ireland yesterday, picking the celebrated brain of the Grand Slam-winning coach Declan Kidney, back at his day job three new signings were promising to make it a summer of hope for Wasps. Tom Varndell, Steve Kefu and Dan Ward-Smith have all signed two-year contracts to play at Adams Park from next season, which is just the good news the black and gold faithful required after this most turbulent of campaigns.

The prized scrum-half Eoin Reddan is the latest player apparently leaving Wasps as he is being lined up to return to his native land to play for Leinster. With James Haskell and Tom Palmer heading for Stade Français, Riki Flutey for Brive and Tom Voyce for Gloucester, that is some exodus from the side which has previously prided itself on being the Guinness Premiership's most united family.

However, Wasps have also established themselves, in the words of their former coach, Warren Gatland, as "the Home for Wayward Rugby Players" and in Varndell there is a player whose career is in urgent need of being put back on the path to its long-mooted destination.

As a wing who has allegedly run 100m in 10.8sec – in his socks, on grass – Varndell has always possessed the firepower, but after being selected and then dropped by Martin Johnson from England's Elite Player Squad because of lack of game-time at Leicester, he is understandably desperate for a new battlefield on which to unload his ammunition.

Said Varndell: "I have great ambitions to play for my country and when you look at the players that have come through Wasps to play for England, you know that the set up is world-class."

Varndell is only 23, has four caps and has been Leicester's top try-scorer for the last three seasons; so it is little wonder that Shaun Edwards sounded so enthused about his arrival. "Tom is probably the fastest player in the league and is a player we have admired for a long time," said the head coach. "We want to help him try to get back into the England reckoning, something we at Wasps have a proven track record of doing."

Edwards clearly also believes the club can perform the trick with Ward-Smith, having netted the No 8 from doomed Bristol. As one of the Premiership's most destructive ball-carriers, the 30-year-old still has a shout for England, while Kefu is an Australian international who is a like-for-like replacement for the No 12 Flutey. What McGeechan, Wasps' director of rugby, and Edwards would do to have them all available for Sunday's match at Saracens, a game they must win if they are to keep alive their mission of Heineken Cup qualification.

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