27th Jun, 2022

RUGBY UNION - Blackett: Wasps need to put themselves back in play-off contention against Saints

LEE BLACKETT insists Wasps need to put themselves “back in contention” for a top-four finish when they make the trip to Northampton Saints this weekend.

Wasps slipped to consecutive defeats against Harlequins and Bristol Bears to drop to ninth in the Gallagher Premiership table before having their bye week last weekend.

And the Coventry club have an identical record with this weekend’s opponents Northampton as Wasps try to close the 11-point gap to fourth-placed Exeter Chiefs.

Head Coach Blackett believes Wasps need to improve at the breakdown and stressed the importance of coming out on top in this weekend’s clash at Franklin’s Gardens.

Blackett said: “It’s about putting ourselves back in contention, it’s a really important game this weekend, we put ourselves in a great spot a couple of weeks ago.

“Very frustrated with the results, we just looked slightly off against Bristol, we had moments where we switched off, they took their chances.

“We had more possession, more breaks, beat more defenders, but they seemed to take their opportunities when they got them and we didn’t, the breakdown was the big thing that cost us.

“For the second week in a row, our breakdown was poor, and as a result we didn’t score enough points when we were down there.

“It was a chance for everyone to have a week away, we had our first bye week on the first game of the season, we’ve eventually had ours and everyone has come back raring to go.

“There’s a positive atmosphere around here and we’re just looking forward to the game coming up this weekend.”

And Blackett singled out Saints scrum-half Alex Mitchell as a potential dangerman, after the 24-year-old earned a recall to England’s Six Nations squad earlier this week.

Blackett added: “When you get to this stage of the season, every game is really important, it’s vital we react with a win this weekend.

“If you look at how close this league is, in terms of the table, look at their last three games – they lost by a point to Sale, three points to Exeter and five points to Gloucester.

“It’s so tight, we know what a dangerous team Saints can be, [Alex] Mitchell at nine is a massive threat, he’s likely to return from the England side.

“They’ve got so many individuals and they play a great brand of rugby, if you look at these two teams, it will be a good game for the neutral especially and hopefully a good game for the Wasps fans to watch.

“Both teams like to play entertaining rugby, if you look at the table for unstructred tries, coming from turnover ball and counter attacks, these two are the top two teams in the competition.

“Franklin’s Gardens is one of the places you really look forward to going, it’s always a great atmosphere there and it’s one of those games that you really look forward to.”

Blackett also gave an update on several players who are closing in on a comeback from injury as well as the club’s plans in the transfer market for next season.

He said: “[Dan] Frost is all well, Thomas [Young] is a couple of weeks away, I reckon by next week he will be close, if it’s not next week it will be the week after.

“Brad [Shields] is already in training, we’ll make a call later this week on Malakai [Fekitoa], Francois [Hougaard] is back available, he was for the last game, we’re not too bad on the injury front.

“There’s a couple of signings still to go out, we’ve got a couple more that we’ve done, there’s a little bit more business to be done.

“We want a couple in the back line that need to be done, we’re not close to anything there but we are in the market for a couple more backs.”

Wasps clash with Saints takes place on Sunday, March 13 with kick-off at 3pm at Franklin’s Gardens.

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