The name of Danny Cipriani had been on everyone's lips for the last four days following his dramatic axing from the England team following an ill-advised midnight excursion to a London nightclub last week.
Yesterday Cipriani's name was on the Wasps team-sheet, among the replacements, and his every move was followed by a forest of camera lenses from the moment he set foot on the Adams Park turf for the warm-up. The 10,000 crowd cheered loudly when his name was read out before the kick-off, although they then had to wait until the 62nd minute of a taut, closely fought match before they could see him in action.
"It was important for him to play," said Ian McGeechan, the Wasps director of rugby. "I think he has handled it all really well. He wanted to show that with his rugby kit on he has plenty to offer."
Cipriani's captain Lawrence Dallaglio added: "Danny takes his rugby seriously. He pays for his own fitness coach, sprint coach and kicking coach."
When Cipriani, who has played at fly-half for his club all season, was eventually sent on in place of Mark van Gisbergen, he moved to full-back. Unfortunately there was no opportunity for him to get on the scoresheet, but he did pull off a couple of tackles, managed to get in a good touch-finder when under pressure, and generally did not put a foot wrong.
Nor for that matter did Dave Walder, who has understudied Cipriani at times this season. Walder produced a near-flawless kicking performance from hand and a 100 per cent return from kicks at goal worth 19 points to ensure that Wasps maintained their Guinness Premiership thrust.
They were outscored three tries to two by a well-organised Harlequins side, but victory took the Wycombe-based club into seventh place above London Irish.
Harlequins' battling display at least earned them a losing bonus point although it was not enough to stop them slipping to sixth.
Wasps: Tries Ibanez, Waldouck; Conversions Walder 2; Penalties Walder 4; Drop goal Walder. Harlequins: Tries Luscombe, Guest, Monye; Conversions Jarvis, Malone; Penalties Jarvis 2.
Wasps: J Lewsey; M Van Gisbergen (D Cipriani, 62), D Waldouck, R Flutey (F Waters, 62), D Doherty; D Walder, M McMillan; T Payne, R Ibanez (J Ward, 61), T French, G Skivington, T Palmer, J Hart (D Leo, 76), J Worsley (R Webber, 70), L Dallaglio (capt).
Harlequins: M Brown; T Williams (De Wet Barry, 34), H Luscombe, T Masson, U Monye; A Jarvis (C Malone, 55), D Care; C Jones, T Fuga (C Brooker, 72), M Ross, J Percival, N Spanghero (G Robson, 55), C Robshaw, W Skinner (capt), T Guest.
Referee: A Small (Bedfordshire).Reuse content