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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
News
i100
Sport
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Sport
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower