Wasps bring in reinforcements amid exodus

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The Independent Online

London Wasps have announced the signing of Tom Varndell, Dan Ward-Smith and Steve Kefu for next season.

The signings will ease supporters' fears over an Adams Park exodus in the summer after seeing England internationals James Haskell, Riki Flutey, Tom Palmer and Tom Voyce all leave the club in recent weeks.

Varndell’s move comes after a fitful career at Leicester where he failed to establish himself as a regular and found himself in and out of the England picture.

"As well as achieving with the Club on the domestic stage, I have great ambitions to play for England and when you look at the players that have come through Wasps into the England set up, you see just how much goes into developing players to their full potential,” said the wing, who will slot in as a replacement for the Gloucester-bound Voyce.

“Watching guys like Paul Sackey turn from great Club men into one of the best in the international arena, you know that the set up at Wasps is world class and I am looking forward to being a part of that and learning from some of the best in the game," he added.

Number 8 Ward-Smith will leave soon-to-be relegated Bristol in the hope that the move will re-ignite his England chances.

The former Plymouth Albion back rower was included in Brian Ashton’s 2007 Six Nations squad only to suffer a serious knee injury before the championship and has failed to make it back into the international reckoning since then.

Ward-Smith’s signature appears to end speculation that Haskell was pondering a u-turn on his decision to leave the club for Stade Francais after fearing his move to France will leave him out of the England spotlight.

Kefu will fill the void left by Flutey in the summer when the England centre also departs for France, taking up a two-year deal with Brive.

A former Wallaby with six caps for Australia between 2001-2003, Kefu joins Wasps from Castres Olympique. The 29 year old centre who has spent the last three seasons with the French side can also boast honours with Queensland Reds, having spent an eight year career with the Super 14 side prior to his move to Europe.

Wasps director of rugby Ian McGeechan said: "We are delighted with these three outstanding signings. Dan Ward-Smith one of the strongest back row carriers in the Guinness Premiership and a very high quality player who we are delighted to have join us.

"We have a great history of back row players at the club and we know he is going to add a lot to the squad. Tom Varndell is a very exciting signing for us. Probably one of the most promising young wingers in the game and at just 23 we feel he will bring a lot again to the way Wasps want to play.

"Steve Kefu provides us with the experience we want to replace Riki Flutey at 12. Not a dissimilar player, his experience will be a great benefit to the squad and will be very good for our younger players.

"With both Tom and Dan recognised by the international set up over the course of their careers, it would give us great satisfaction to see them follow so many players who have joined this club and go on to put on an England shirt. They are both great talents with great potential for both club and country and as coaches we look forward to working with all three of these players next season."