Wasps' familiar early woes cause unfamiliar anxiety

The reigning champions have been in "played two, lost two" territory before, most recently in 2004. Last year, when they won once in six outings at the start of the season, was not so special either. But there is something about Wasps' start to the current campaign that has people seriously worried down High Wycombe way, not least the international flanker Tom Rees, who had some strong things to say about the situation yesterday.

Rees was probably his side's best player when they went down to London Irish in their opening fixture at Twickenham 11 days ago and took the man-of-the-match rosette in the unexpected home defeat by Worcester at the weekend, but his own form does not appear to be making him feel better. "We have to hold our hands up and say we've been stupid in terms of the penalties we've given away," he remarked. "To still be giving them away after 80 minutes, as we did against Worcester, is plain crazy."

Wasps are notoriously poor starters: only once in the past six seasons have they won two on the bounce straight from the get-go. Sometimes these problems have been easily explained – in 2003-04 and 2007-08 they were seriously weakened by World Cup calls – and anyway, they have made a habit of recovering spectacularly from early travails. Four titles in half a dozen attempts tells its own story.

But the harsh language currently in wide circulation suggests there is a genuine sense of unease running through English rugby's most successful operation. Ian McGeechan, the director of rugby, described Sunday's performance as "unacceptable" while Rees, a plain speaker, added: "The fact that we've come back from bad starts in previous years counts for nothing, because this is about the here and now and it gets harder every year in the Premiership. This will be a difficult week because there is a lot of anger in the squad. That will be a good thing if we channel it properly, but if we allow frustration to build up, it'll make things worse."

This weekend's visit to Northampton has taken on fresh importance because, in Premiership terms, Wasps will not have a full squad from which to choose for very much longer. (Under the new agreement between the top-flight clubs and the Rugby Football Union on international player release, influential personnel will have to be rested over the next couple of weeks, and will soon head off to prepare for England's autumn Tests). What is more, both McGeechan and his second-in-command, Shaun Edwards, are about to face distractions. Edwards will be away with Wales; McGeechan is about to divide his time between club duties and another bout of Lions business.

No one at Wasps is blaming subterranean performance levels on the confusing Experimental Law Variations being trialled in the Premiership, which is just as well. Like most right-thinking union followers McGeechan, one of the game's shrewdest strategists, has no time for the ELVs; however, Wasps are among the clubs who should, in theory, benefit from the changes, given their dynamic, top-of-the-ground style of rugby.

Perhaps the explanation is one of leadership, or the lack of it. After Lawrence Dallaglio, a revered captain of long standing, bade his farewells after last season's victory in the Premiership final, Rees said: "We'll miss him terribly, but I'm confident the mentality he has instilled into us will take us forward. Lawrence may have gone, but the attitude stays." The truth of that assertion will be established in the coming weeks.

Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
food + drink
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits