Now the dust has settled on Kurtley Beale’s £1.5m ($3m Aus) deal we give you the skinny on his new club Wasps:
Just who the hell are Wasps?
Wasps are a club based in Coventry in the Midlands of England (about 100 miles from London), they play in the Aviva Premiership.
Formerly London Wasps they are one of the oldest clubs in the English game and one of the founding members of the Rugby Football Union. Formed in 1867 when Hempstead Football Club split (the other team formed was Harlequins RFC).
They’ve had financial issues in the last few years but under the guidance of Derek Richardson they bought the primary stake in the Ricoh Arena complex – a commercial set up that contains a Hotel Complex, Exhibition Hall, Shopping Center, Casino and last but not least a 33,000 seat Bowl stadium – that is used for sport and concerts.
This gives them the ability to generate a huge revenue stream outside of Rugby, and it’s widely believed they are on course to become the richest club in Europe (if not the World) with assets outstripping even Toulon, though the French Top 14’s recent €97m TV deal may have some say in that.
Yeah, that all sounds great, but that’s the money side. Are they a good club?
Yep, they’re not bad, since the game turned Professional they’ve won every major tournament in the Northern Hemisphere, and along with Leicester dominated the European Club game for a good few years.
Their Roll call of honors is:
Premiership: 1997, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2008
European Cup: 2004 and 2007
European Challenge Cup: 2006
Anglo Welsh: 1999, 2000, and 2006
Hang on, their last trophy was 2008? What are they like now?
Due to financial uncertainty they struggled in recent years flirting with relegation but since their big money move to the Ricoh Arena, and the financial stability it brings, some significant signings have been made and they’ve again started to taste success.
This year they finished third in the regular Premiership season qualifying for the play-offs and made the semi-finals of the European Rugby Champions Cup falling to Saracens.
With astute and big money purchases they look set to challenge for top honors in the European game, and Beale’s signing is seen as a big part of that.
Alright that’s the money and club stuff, but I want to know about the actual team?
The club’s list of notable players is pretty much a role call of Rugby, former players include:
Rob Andrew, Fran Clough, Laurence Dallaglio, Josh Lewsey, Rob Howley, Matt Dawson, Dean Richards, Gareth Rees, Simon Shaw, Chris Oti, Nigel Mellville, James Haskell,Danny Cipriani, Steve Thompson, Phil Vickery, Norm Hadley, Serge Betsen, Raphaël Ibañez , Kenny Logan, Trevor Leota and Andy Reed to name but a few.
Of course that’s the old boys, but Wasps Director of Rugby, Former British and Irish Lion Dai Young, has built an exciting and very solid squad. Sure he’s bought some big names, but with 24 of their 44 man squad English qualified they’ve provided a lot of players to the current English set up.
Current players of note in the Wasps team are: James Haskell, George Smith, Elliot Daly, Siale and Charles Piutau, Christian Wade, Jimmy Gopperth, Joe Simpson, Joe Launchburry, Ruraidh Jackson, Bradley Davies.
As an example the Wasps team that lost to Saracens in the Semi Final of the European Rugby Champions Cup was as follows: 15:Charles Piutau 14: Christian Wade 13: Elliot Daly 12: Siale Piutau 11: Frank Halai 10: Jimmy Gopperth 09: Dan Robson 01: Matt Mullan 02: Carlo Festuccia 03: Lorenzo Cittadini 04: Joe Launchbury 05: Bradley Davies 06:James Haskell (capt) 07: George Smith 08: Nathan Hughes.
So where does Kurtley Beale fit into all this?
This summer there are a few major departures, notably George Smith and the Piutau brothers which is where Beale fits in.
He is being brought into cover 12 and 15. Wasps have also re-signed their prodigal son Danny Cipriani, and there are rumors they are about to sign Steffon Armitage as a like for like replacement for Smith.
So is Wasps a good fit for Beale?
On paper yes. Wasps have always traditionally been a club that was renowned for turning problematic players around – somewhere the waifs and strays of world rugby could find a home.
But this is a professional game and it’s a big money contract so Wasps will expect a consistent return on their investment in the form of trophies. Beale will be key for Wasps challenging for silverware in the next few seasons.
Having said that, there are question marks about bringing Cipriani and Beale back together, but under Dai Young’s guidance Wasps have become one of the fittest and most exciting teams in Europe, renowned for their attacking play they’ve they turned out some stunning performances this year, not least hammering Saracens 64-23, Toulon 32-6 and Leinster 33-6 (in Dublin) and with both players seemingly having matured of late hopes are they connect on the field in the way they connected off it in Melbourne.
Essentially Beale will be lining up with some of the most exciting young players in the English game next season playing for a team that likes to show the ball some air in front of some big crowds.
Beale is crocked, is the deal off?
Well, while that could be an out come it’s more likely that everything goes ahead.
It’s a bad injury, and a rare one at that, 6-12 months out (if full recovery is achieved) is a long time but Wasps S&C and Medical team have a long history of rehabilitating catastrophic injuries, Joe Simpson, Christian Wade and Laurance Dallaglio are all proof of the quality of the Wasps medical team. So at this stage they’ll fully expect to see Beale in the Black and Yellow further down the line.
Ok, but what does this mean for Australia and the Wallabies?
Again, it’s hard to tell and with Beale’s knee injury likely to take him out of the game for 6-8 months (if it heals) he’s unlikely to feature for the Wallabies anytime soon anyway.
But Beale is a Cheika favourite and a lot will depend on Chieka’s desire to exploit the Giteau law, with 60 caps under his belt he’d certainly qualify, and like Giteau, Mitchell, Mumm and Douglas at the time he’s likely to be playing in the rarefied atmosphere of Europe for the next few season in a team that in ethos and style of play is expansive and exciting. Cheika has an understanding and appreciation of the European games strengths, having coached Leinster and Stade Francais, that doesn’t mean he’s going to call everyone back, but he’s certainly confident that the right players in the right teams can make the transition to Wallabies.
More worryingly for Australian Rugby though is it further illustrates the financial clout the clubs in Europe are developing and with France’s LNR having just signed a €97m television deal with Canal+ for Top 14 coverage that’s only going to widen the divide.
Fighting these clubs ability to pry current Wallabies away from Super Rugby purely on the basis of finances is a difficult war to win, clearly things like the 60+ rule and sabbaticals of the like Bernard Foley has taken aren’t quite doing the trick, but as the player drain continues it will be interesting to see what steps ARU take to combat this.
With much depending on the World Rugby discussions in Lyon this week the ARU will be hoping for a better set up post 2019, better revenue share from the Spring Tour and a more closely aligned global season providing better prepared NH tours in July.