1st Jul, 2022

RUGBY UNION - Blackett: Next five weeks could define our season

LEE BLACKETT believes the next five weeks could “define” Wasps season as the Coventry club prepare to host Saracens this weekend.

 

Wasps were knocked out of the European Champions Cup last weekend after suffering a heavy 45-5 defeat to Munster in Ireland.

 

And Wasps now embark on a tricky run of fixtures that sees them play Saracens, Exeter Chiefs, Bath, Harlequins and Bristol Bears before the next break.

 

Head Coach Blackett hopes to put last weekend’s display at Munster behind him with influential leader Joe Launchbury in contention to make his long-awaited return against Sarries.

 

Blackett said: “It ended up not being a very nice performance [against Munster] we weren’t happy with how we played but you’ve got to move on fast.

 

“We’ve got a massive five games before our week off in the Premiership, this is going to be an absolutely crucial part of the season now, these next five weeks could define our season.

 

“We know where we’ve got to be this weekend to be at our best and try and beat this Saracens team who are very confident at the moment.

 

“There’s some crucial guys coming back, [Joe] Launchbury, he’s the best I’ve ever seen at the way he concludes things. He’s a pretty special leader, the intensity of everything just goes up.

 

“Saracens are a team that’s confident, scoring points and we all know about their defence but we know recently when we’re at our best we’re hard to beat.”

 

The club continues to support centre Malakai Fekitoa who has raised more than £50,000 to help those affected in his homeland of Tonga after the island was devastated by the eruption of the Hunga-Tonga volcano which triggered a tsunami on January 15.

 

Fekitoa had been cut off from his family for 12 days as communications went down in the country but was able to speak to his mother on Tuesday and confirmed his family are “safe and sound.”

 

Blackett added: “I’m pretty deeply saddened by everything that’s gone on in Tonga, my thoughts are with everyone in terms of that.

 

“With Mala [Malakai Fekitoa] it almost takes your breath away, everything he’s gone through and how he’s been around the club, to not know at times that your family weren’t safe.

 

“You can’t contact them day on day, you just couldn’t imagine could you? How he’s coped with that and how he’s done all this fundraising, the club are immensely proud of him.

 

“This club is about the people and we’re trying to help the people of Tonga as much as we possibly can.”

 

Wasps confirmed earlier this week that former All Black Vaea Fifita would be leaving the club to join Welsh side Scarlets after just a single season at the CBS Arena.

 

And Blackett admitted Wasps were unable to compete financially to keep Fifita due to restraints on the salary cap.

 

He said: “It’s disappointing, Vaea [Fifita] has been up front from the outset with me, I couldn’t have asked any more of him.

 

“When you understand the big picture and you see everything on paper and what he’s been offered, I can’t blame him, he’s got to think about his family.

 

“We just couldn’t compete with the offer, he’s absolutely loved every moment of it, I’m excited in terms of what we’re going to have with him for the rest of the season.

 

“Unfortunately, as you’ve seen with several clubs, at times you’re going to lose players with the way the salary cap is, we’re excited to see how the season finishes.

 

“We’ll always pick our best team and he’s showing signs that he’s going to be in our best team.”

 

The club have announced that 20% of all ticket sales from their game against Saracens will be donated to the Tongan relief effort.

 

Wasps clash with Saracens takes place on Sunday, January 30 with kick-off at 3pm at the Coventry Building Society Arena.

 

To donate to Fekitoa’s fundraiser please visit the following link.

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