Open letter starts:
Dear Wasps Supporters,
I hope you, your family and friends are all safe and well.
The last twelve months have been unlike any other we have ever faced. We’ve lived through numerous lockdowns, been forced to isolate from those we love, had our daily lives restricted in ways we never imagined and been unable to attend live sport for well over a year now. Even though matches have been taking place since last August, the impact of not having our fantastic supporters in the stadium has been felt by all of us – players, coaches and staff alike.
Clearly results haven’t been where we’d like them to be recently, with the men’s team unable to replicate the highs of last season. That’s been frustrating for all of us, as has the loss of key players to injury, but it’s part of the game and we’ll learn from the experience and come back stronger. We have a long term plan in place and inevitably there will be some bumps in the road. However, we are all excited at the potential of the squad, the wider coaching and backroom staff and have faith that we are on the right track. Our Academy is in good shape and we were delighted to add another eight under 18 players to our Senior Academy recently.
Despite the frustrations of not being as competitive as we had hoped this season, the ongoing support we have received from our fans has been incredible and is something that each and every one of us at Wasps are genuinely grateful for.
We will focus on finishing this season as strong as we can before starting to look towards the 2021-22 campaign and beyond. There is a huge amount of work going on behind the scenes to ensure we are well positioned to hit the ground running next season. An important part of our strategy will be the opening of our new elite training centre in Henley-in-Arden. The new site is currently under construction, pitches are being laid and, when complete in the summer, it will be one of the finest high-performance facilities in the game.
Away from the training ground, we are also cautiously optimistic about a return to normality at the Arena. We will of course follow the government’s roadmap, but plans are underway to reopen our conferencing, event facilities and hotel in the next week, and then the long-awaited return of you, our fans, soon after.
In line with government guidance regarding outdoor sporting events, we are now preparing for the return of supporters for our final home game of the season again Leicester Tigers on Saturday 12 June. These plans are currently being finalised and full details will be communicated once we have sign off from the various authorities regarding capacities and ticket allocations. We are anticipating being able to share this information shortly. I know the players can’t wait to see you all again and it will be great to finish the season in front of supporters.
We are well aware that we were unable to deliver three games this season, which we included as part of your Season Member Plus ticket, and the Ticket Office team will be in touch during the summer about these fixtures.
For those of you who have enquired, we kindly ask you to remain patient and to keep an eye out later this month for news on the launch of Season Memberships for 2021-22.
I would also like to take this opportunity to make you aware that the Club will be inviting supporters to join us this summer for the first in a series of fan forums. I’m keen to update you on both our on and off field plans, as well as give you the chance to meet myself and key members of the playing department to ask any questions you may have.
Thank you once again for your loyal support and look forward to seeing you soon.
Stephen Vaughan – Group CEO
Open Letter ends:
Sean O’Brien to retire from rugby
London Irish can confirm Seán O’Brien is set to retire from rugby at the end of the 2021/22 season.
The back-row forward will bring a storied 14-year career to a conclusion this summer after two-and-a-half years with the Exiles.
O’Brien spent eleven seasons with his home province of Leinster, winning four Pro12/ Pro14 league titles, four Heineken Cup/ Champions Cup honours and an Amlin Challenge Cup, whilst also earning the ERC European Player of the Year accolade in 2011.
He was capped 56 times for Ireland between 2009 and 2019 and represented the British and Irish Lions on two tours, firstly to Australia in 2013 and then to New Zealand in 2017.
O’Brien joined London Irish in December 2019 and has played a vital part across three successful seasons in west London, becoming a fan favourite amongst the Exile Nation.
On his decision to retire, O’Brien stated: “After much deliberation and consultation with my family and friends, I can confirm that I have decided to retire from playing professional rugby at the end of the season.
“I’ve had an incredible career and am thankful for every second of my time at Leinster, Ireland, London Irish and the British & Irish Lions.
“As a 20-year-old, I fulfilled my childhood dream by pulling on the Leinster jersey, and when I made my debut against Cardiff Blues in 2008, I never imagined what would then follow over the next 14 years.
“A special mention must go to Colin McEntee for his ‘big brother’ approach when I joined the academy.
“I feel lucky to have experienced so many wonderful highlights over the course of my career.
“At an international level, I feel privileged to have won 56 caps for Ireland.
“I gave everything I could possibly give, and I will always look back with great pride at every time I pulled on the Irish jersey to represent my country, my county, my friends, and family.
“I feel very fortunate to have had the career I’ve had but none of it would have been possible without the support of so many people.
“Firstly, I would like to thank my Mam and Dad for taking me to Ballon Rathoe Community Games and then Tullow RFC when I was 8 years old.
“They took me to every sport in my area which gave me the exposure to all types of sport.
“They were the perfect role models who taught me to not be afraid of hard work, which certainly helped me progress my career and I can’t thank them enough.
“I was lucky to play alongside some great players and under some brilliant managers and coaches during my time at Tullow, Leinster, Ireland, London Irish and the Lions and I would like to thank every one of them.
“I would also like to thank the backroom staff at each of those clubs, they all showed me fantastic support during my time with them.
“I would like to say a special thank you to some people who believed in me early on in my career, who are sadly no longer with us.
“Jim Kealy (Tullow RFC) and David Wilkie (Edenderry RFC) always said the right thing to me and gave me direction when needed.
“Away from rugby, I feel lucky to have had such a close group of friends that I have always been able to count and rely on throughout the course of my career.
“Thanks to all of you, especially James Foley and Daniel Davey.
“Finally, the most important thank you is reserved for my family.
“I can’t thank my Mum, Dad and brothers (Stephen and William) sisters (Caroline and Alex) enough for their unconditional support over the years.
“It has meant everything to me and to have 6 nephews watching means the world to me.
“There is still a lot of rugby to be played this season before the time comes to hang up my boots, and I am fully focused on giving my all in the London Irish jersey until then.
“I’m going to soak up every minute I get on the pitch and look forward to helping the team wherever I can.
“I am excited about the future and feel I still have a lot to offer the game, in whatever capacity that may be.
“I am currently taking my time to consider a number of options and will make an announcement with regards to the next stage of my career very soon.”
Club statement | Gloucester match cancelled
Warriors regret that tonight’s Gallagher Premiership match against Gloucester Rugby at Kingsholm has been cancelled.
COVID-19 cases, illness and injuries mean that, despite every attempt to fulfil the fixture, we are unable to name a team with sufficient front row forwards to comply with the competition regulations.
We currently have 36 players unavailable due to injury, illness or COVID-19, leaving us with only 18 fully fit players, of whom just three are prop forwards.
When the side to face Gloucester was announced on Thursday we named the only four fit props in the club at that stage. The availability of Murray McCallum, who was named as replacement tighthead, was subject to him passing a fitness test on Friday morning. Unfortunately, Murray failed that fitness test.
Gloucester and Premiership Rugby have now been notified that we no longer have sufficient fit and available front row forwards to allow tonight’s match to proceed safely.
We apologise to Gloucester, supporters of both clubs and BT Sport for the inconvenience this will inevitably cause but exceptional circumstances have conspired against us.
An independent Panel will now be convened to decide the points allocation and that decision will be communicated in due course but Premiership Rugby can confirm the match will not be replayed.
• The playing regulations for Gallagher Premiership matches state that:
In the interests of safety each team playing in the Premiership must have at least six fit and able players in the squad who can play at hooker, tighthead prop and loosehead prop who are suitably trained and experienced to ensure that on the first occasion that a replacement in any front row position is required (whether due to injury or consequent to a player(s) being temporarily suspended or ordered off) the team can continue to play safely with contested scrums.
In the event that a club is unable to field those six players, the match shall be cancelled.
Images & Content from Worcester Warriors
Scotland international heading to Bristol
Bristol Bears have agreed terms to bring Scottish international Magnus Bradbury to Ashton Gate Stadium.
The 26-year-old back rower joins Ellis Genge and AJ MacGinty as the Bears’ third international signing ahead of the 2022/23 campaign.
With seventeen caps to his name, Bradbury has made over 100 appearances for Edinburgh Rugby since graduating through the club’s Academy.
“Magnus is a physical, athletic back rower with outstanding work rate and all the attributes to thrive in our system,” said Director of Rugby Pat Lam.
“To be a centurion at Edinburgh at such a young age shows his consistency and attitude and we’ve seen from his performances on the international stage that he can compete at the very highest level.
“Magnus brings further quality and physicality to our back row as we continue our recruitment for the 2022/23 campaign.”
Bradbury made his full Scotland debut in the 2016 November Test victory over Argentina at BT Murrayfield and has featured in all three of Scotland’s Six Nations fixtures in 2022.
He added: “It’s an exciting opportunity to come to Bristol and play in the Gallagher Premiership. This is a massive club with great ambitions and a world class coaching team – I’m looking forward to the challenge that awaits.
“I’d like to pay tribute to Edinburgh Rugby and my teammates, the fans and staff at the club. It’s been an incredible journey and I am grateful for the support I have received over many years.”