27th Jun, 2022

RUGBY UNION - Blackett: European qualifaction the motivator for Wasps ahead of final home game

HEAD Coach Lee Blackett insists qualifying for Europe is the only motivation his side need ahead of their final home game of the season against Sale Sharks on Friday night.

Wasps host Sale at the CBS Arena as they look to finish their home campaign with a ninth successive victory.

Blackett’s side head into the game off the back of an agonising 20-18 defeat to Lyon in the European Challenge Cup semi-finals.

However, Wasps must put that result behind them as they look to climb into the Champions Cup places which are awarded to the top eight teams in the Premiership with the Coventry side currently in ninth.

Blackett said: “We’ve won eight on the bounce at home, there’s players playing their last home game for the club, there’s motivation in terms of that and making sure we qualify for Europe.

“We just need to focus on this one game, it’s all about the process and how we’re going to win this game rather than focussing on what we need across two games in terms of the top-eight.

“The big feeling after the Lyon game was that we’ve got to find a way of getting over it very fast, take any learnings from it and it was important that we moved onto Sale – it’s a massive game for us.

“The mental side of the game is the thing we’ve really got to look at, recovery wise we’ll get there in terms of how our body feels, we’re putting a lot of focus on how we are mentally, it’s key for us after last weekend’s game.”

Defeat in France last weekend saw Wasps come just one score short of reaching their first European final in 15 years and Blackett hopes the result will act as motivation for his players to improve next season.

Blackett added: “I was really proud of the effort, it shows we’re not far away, there were a lot of positives in the performance but it’s good for us to use it as motivation to work harder.

“Whether we like it or not, there is a gap, it was the tiniest of margins, if we want to win things then it will just give us even more motivation, there was a lot of hurt.

“The big thing is, next time we’re in that position in a semi-final, we’re a better side and we come through it and we win – what are the little things that are going to make us better next time we’re in a semi-final?

“There were clear signs we’re going in the right direction but we’re going to have to find a few more per cent next season if we’re going to go and put ourselves in finals and try and win things.”

Wasps trio Alfie Barbeary, Joe Launchbury and Jack Willis have all been called up to England’s training squad which comes as no surprise to Blackett given the amount of English players at his disposal.

He said: “If you look at us over the last eight weeks, how many English qualified players we’ve got, we were putting out squads with 21 out of 23 English qualified players.

“If we’ve got that many English qualified guys playing for us and we’re playing well as a club, you’d like to think we’d get a lot of players in the England squad, it’s really pleasing.

“With the three players, you’ve got two people coming back from long-term injury and you’ve got Alfie who is right at the start, it’s exciting for all three of them.

“We want the players with ambitions to play for England, if players are disappointed [not to be in the squad] that will just give them even more drive for next season.”

Wasps finish their home campaign with a match against Sale on Friday, May 20 with kick-off at 7.45pm at the Coventry Building Society Arena.

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