London Wasps 49 Worcester 12: Cipriani excels but Walder's shin injury worries Wasps

Strength in depth an issue as play-off kings begin busy spell with a stroll
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The Independent Online

Wasps, the arch exponents of the play-off system, are moving ominously through the gears and up the Premiership table. With seven tries all converted by Danny Cipriani, they swatted off an under-strength Worcester side for their biggest win of the season and a sixth in a row in the league.

Not quite everything is going Wasps' way – they lost Cipriani's understudy, Dave Walder, to a shin injury in the second half, which is a worry as the matches now come thick and fast. But Shaun Edwards, the head coach, has sorted out his club and country commitments until 2011 and is fully on Wasps time until the domestic baubles are handed out next month.

It could be quite a run-in. Although yesterday's programme notes referred to Gloucester's visit here on 4 May as the retiring No 8 Lawrence Dallaglio's last competitive home match, Wasps could yet earn a home play-off semi-final.

Edwards, accompanied on the touchline by his young son James, decided with his director of rugby, Ian McGeechan, to rest Tom Rees and James Haskell from the back row yesterday. It was the start of a sequence of three Premiership matches in nine days, as Wasps have been forced to reschedule two games: Sale (a frozen pitch originally) here on Tuesday and Newcastle away (too windy) on 7 May.

The good news continued for Wasps with Tom Voyce buzzing on and off his wing for the first time since he injured a knee in late December. A facile opening try after 15 minutes, when Cipriani booted a penalty to touch and Wasps secured the line-out and worked Riki Flutey over thanks to a missed tackle by Mark Tucker, hinted at a long afternoon for Worcester.

The circumstances were made for Cipriani and he knew it. The England fly-half lolloped confidently round the fringes of rucks and mauls, slack-wristed yet alert, prodding kicks and whacking touch-finders and firing out passes of all descriptions. It was no surprise when he was on the end of a lovely inside pass from Dominic Waldouck to finish a short-side move for Wasps' third try of the half.

Cipriani also had a hand in the try scored while Worcester flanker Matt Cox was in the sin-bin for going in at the side of a ruck. Cox was one of a clutch of youngsters given their day in the late-season sun by Worcester, who had eight first-team regulars injured or rested, but in his 10-minute absence – the visitors had been warned by the referee, Sean Davey – Wasps went through multiple phases to create a try for the prop Pat Barnard.

Cox went some way to redemption when, within a couple of minutes of rejoining the action, he was the scorer at the bottom of a maul driven over by Worcester after Craig Gillies caught a line-out deep in the Wasps 22. It was 21-7 at half-time.

Woundingly for Worcester, though, Mark van Gisbergen scored Wasps' fourth try soon after he had replaced Flutey. Then, even worse, during a period around the hour mark in which Dallaglio was cooling his heels after his first Premiership yellow card of the season, Wasps went over for two more tries. Cipriani's neat pass set up Simon Shaw, and then Voyce ran clear from halfway.

It was not a trouble-free time for Wasps as Walder, on the field as a blood replacement, was carried off and taken to hospital for an x-ray, but Van Gisbergen sealed a one-sided win with his second try and Cipriani auditioned for a part in Carry on Converting. The fly-half strolled off with a couple of minutes remaining – purely as a protective measure – and Worcester's hooker, Matt Mullan, concluded the scoring.

Stand by for more coaching speculation – the four home unions' nominations for the tour to South Africa in 2009 were due in Dublin yesterday. McGeechan and Edwards appear certain to join them on the short list.

In the immediate future, at least, their concerns are all Wasps black.

London Wasps: J Lewsey; P Sackey, D Waldouck (D Walder, 58-66), R Flutey (M van Gisbergen, 43), T Voyce; D Cipriani, M McMillan (E Reddan, 40); T French (T Payne, 63), J Ward, P Barnard (P Vickery, 63), T Palmer (S Shaw, 55), G Skivington, D Leo, L Dallaglio (capt), J Worsley (R Webber, 54).

Worcester: C Pennell; M Benjamin, R Gear, M Tucker (D Fea'unati, 76), M Garvey; S Drahm (J Carlisle, 52), J Arr (N Runciman, 73); T Windo (capt; C Fortey, 56), M Mullan, T Taumoepeau (S Ruwers, 61), W Bowley, C Gillies (G Kitchener, 67), T Wood, D Hickey, M Cox.

Referee: S Davey (Sussex).