Belfast Telegraph

I knew Furlong was destined for the top, says Gopperth

By Cian Tracey

When the Wasps squad met up first thing on Monday, it wouldn't have come as a surprise if Dai Young began by picking apart both of last season's victories over Leinster, but instead they have gone about their week as if they never happened.

Leo Cullen is unlikely to have adopted a similar approach, even if his side are in an altogether different position this time around but Wasps will not be lulled into a false sense of security.

The free-scoring Premiership leaders have grown accustomed to teams doing everything within their power to slow down their ball at the ruck. It comes with the territory of being one of the most potent sides in Europe but it is worth remembering that in the same number of domestic games (18) this season, it is in fact Leinster (79) who have scored more tries than Saturday's opponents, Wasps (73).

Wasps out-half Jimmy Gopperth explained: "We're seeing a lot more teams holding on to the ball or trying to pin us back in our half really early, which has been good for us.

"We've had to vary our game and approach games differently for the last month or so.

"We know teams want to slow our ruck down and that they are going to come very hard at the breakdown."

Gopperth was with Leinster during the transitional period under Matt O'Connor and it has come as no surprise to him to see them back amongst Europe's elite.

Wasps themselves have undergone their own facelift, as the club has relocated to Coventry. Wasps have gone from strength to strength since the move but for all the money that has been invested, the pressure is on to see a return.

It has been nine years since Wasps last won the Premiership and another 10 since they were champions of Europe, but Gopperth believes they are on the right path again.

"It's been a blessing in disguise," he said of the move from London. "The Wasps brand has really taken off and you can see that in the types of people that we have been able to recruit. People hear Wasps and think, 'Oh yeah, I want to go play for them'. It's been a very good move.

"The Premiership on the whole is a lot stronger than the PRO12. It's like Leinster-Munster every week. There's no let-up."

Saturday will give Gopperth a first-hand look at the improvements his former team have made since Wasps beat them twice but there is one player in particular who the Kiwi knew was destined for the top.

"I always thought Tadhg Furlong was going to go on to greatness," Gopperth added. "He was a young fella coming through the academy and he was as strong as an ox. He's got that farmer's strength but it was more than that, it was an attitude.

"He has come on leaps and bounds. He was outstanding in the Six Nations and he has more or less booked his plane ticket to New Zealand with the Lions.

"I am really happy for Tadhg. He's a good bloke and it's just good to see a young guy from the countryside doing really, really well."

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