Where better to start back, than with a bit of rugby.
My club team, Wasps, have started the season with a bang but my season started a week earlier, watching Racing 92 in Paris.
Whilst I have no affiliation, or love, for a particular French side, it’s a privilege to be able to watch a certain Mr Carter play and it’s interesting seeing how much Racing have invested on their side whilst leaving the ground as a bit of a dump. To be honest though, the whole area is a bit of a dump. The match against newly-promoted Lyon was expected to be a bit one-sided, and whilst Racing scored a couple of stunning tries and never looked overly troubled, they also lacked fluency. Still, it’s early in the season and was great to get a game in, even in temperatures well into the 30s where sweating in the stands was compulsory, never mind on the pitch.
From there, back in England, Wasps started the season with bonus point wins at home to Exeter and Bristol, and a rare win at Welford Road. A second solid away win followed against the Saints to leave Wasps top of the pile.
Being late to the game, I won’t bother with match reports because you’ve all seen the highlights but this is the first time, for a long time, I’ve really tried to commit my time to getting to matches.
Wasps were outspoken last year about cap breaches and their signings in the summer led many to believe they’d stuck two fingers up to the league – if others can get away with it, then we might as well join then. However, despite the signings of Cipriani, Beale, Eastmond and Le Roux to follow, Wasps still claim to be within the cap. The exciting side they have built, along with the outspoken honesty from within, make Wasps a good team to follow.
I appreciate they aren’t to everybody’s taste. They’ll always pull in the “franchise” and “nomad” comments, but without the move Wasps might not exist. They’ll always get comments about free tickets, bombarding schools to get fans, but why shouldn’t they? Do we think Sarries sell-out at Wembley every year by selling tickets for the same price as they do at the Allianz? Only a small minority of clubs in this league get close to selling out each week, so surely initiatives to put bums on seats and involve young fans should be applauded, not criticised.
As a result, I’ve made the conscious effort this year to get to more games. So far, I’ve had four treks to the Midlands in a row with a 5th upcoming this weekend, before a game closer to home against the afore-mentioned Sarries. I’ve been rewarded with four cracking games, some stunning tries and having met lots of fun, friendly people.
Take young Ronan, for example. Queuing for a beer at Northampton (that shit needs sorting out btw, Saints), I got chatting to the guy behind me and his son kept disappearing and re-appearing. Eventually he asked what our names were, and he asked ours. He asked if we liked going to the Ricoh. We had, as had he – his school had got some free tickets last year. He asked if we had been to Leicester previously. We had, and he was delighted we’d beaten them. And as we got to the front of the queue and ordered our beers, he asked for one, too.
“Do you have ID?” joked the girl behind the bar.
“How old are you?” I asked him.
“I’m 9” he answered proudly.
He’s obviously getting good training from his dad! As we left Ronan, we wished each other good luck. It’s so nice to see kids embracing sport and having parents who allow them that interaction.
Here we stand – 4 games; 4 wins; an excellent squad; a brilliant manager; and winning fans and making friends.
Roll on Quins.