LAST season’s European Rugby Champions Cup semi-finalists Wasps are under significantly more pressure to perform in this season’s competition than they were 12 months ago, according to director of rugby Dai Young.
Wasps had an incredible tournament last year, topping a pool which included reigning champions Toulon, Bath Rugby and Leinster, with four wins and two defeats.
The Coventry-based club beat Exeter Chiefs by a single point in their quarter-finals before succumbing to eventual winners Saracens at the semi-final stage.
It was a run that surpassed all pre-season expectations for Wasps and Young admits that the pressure is on to repeat their success again this time around.
“There’s a lot more pressure on us this season compared to last season,” he explained.
“There are no easy games, I think every director of rugby or player will tell you that, but perceptions are that this group is easier for us than last season.
“Nobody gave us a chance last year so there was no pressure on us, but if you want to achieve things this is the type of pressure you’ve got to deal with.
“There’s a lot of feel-good factor in the squad at the minute but it’s how you perform on the day and we’re in a tough group.”
Wasps have started the Premiership season in electric form with five wins from their opening five games and three try bonus points.
When they begin their European voyage they’ll be looking for similarly strong performances against their group opponents of Pro12 champions Connacht, Toulouse and Italian side Zebre.
And Young admits after working so hard last year to qualify for the tournament with a third-placed finish in the Premiership, he knows the squad are determined to enjoy themselves.
“Any sporting organisation wants to be in the best competition, at the top table of European sport, and that’s the Champions Cup,” he added.
“For us it’s a real slog every year, 22 games and a ten month competition, to quality for the Champions Cup and once you’ve done that you want to enjoy it.
“The only way to do that is to really compete and do yourself proud in that competition.
“From our point of view it’s something the players and fans really look forward to, it gives you a yard stick of where you are in the game.
“It’s different from every game week in week out playing English rivals; to be playing teams from elsewhere it all adds up to a really memorable competition and one that everyone wants to be a part of.”
European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) is the organiser of the European Rugby Champions Cup, the European Rugby Challenge Cup and the Challenge Cup Qualifying Competition. Follow all the excitement of another thrilling season of European action at www.epcrugby.com
Support community journalism by making a contribution
Thanks for reading this and the Coventry Observer.