King plots Wasps' downfall
December 3, 2007
London Wasps will be wary of the detailed inside knowledge one of their favourite sons has on them when the defending Heineken Cup champions travel to ASM Clermont Auvergne in Round 3 on Saturday.
England international outside half Alex King - so far the only Wasp to play 50 Heineken Cup matches and a double tournament winner with the club in 2004 and again last May - is now with the French club and insists that, while relishing seeing his old team-mates in the back-to-back Pool 5 contests, there will be no divided loyalties once the action starts.
"I have not been able to get a starting place yet, but it was always going to be difficult getting in ahead of Brock James," said the player who kicked 15 points in the 25-9 win over Leicester Tigers in front of 81,076 fans at Twickenham Stadium just over six months ago.
"He is a class act and has become very important to the side. I'm still learning patterns of play and strategies - although I'm sure I'll be used to give an insight into the Wasps game plan. Vern Cotter, the coach, has already been asking about how best to break down the Wasps defensive system.
"It has been noticeable how Wasps have hit their straps since their World Cup players have returned and their form in the last month has been terrific. They beat Munster in their opening Heineken Cup match and then picked up that try bonus point victory over the Scarlets in Llanelli.
"It means they will be coming to Clermont full of confidence and that is only going to make it an even better occasion. The Heineken Cup is an awesome tournament in the way it throws up clashes like this.
"And what an amazing coincidence it was to have Wasps drawn with Clermont after I made my move to France. I'm sure Wasps will know my game inside out and it is going to be strange preparing to play against them. But Clermont is my team now and there won't be any divided loyalties.
"I must say I'm looking forward to going back to Adams Park because I didn't really get a chance to say goodbye to a number of the players and fans. I've already been having some banter with Lawrence Dallaglio on the phone and it should be a very special game.
"The essence of Wasps is all down to the strong work ethic at the club. It is, quite simply, phenomenal.
"There is huge ambition from all the players who come to the club. Phil Vickery and Paul Sackey are two good examples. They hadn't won anything major with Gloucester or London Irish, yet now they are European champions. The Wasps environment has helped to turn them into world class players."
Not that Clermont's cosmopolitan squad is short on stars of their own, King adding: "I was very lucky to play with a number of world class players at Wasps and it is the same here.
"Now I walk into the dressing room and sit down with the 2007 World Cup winning captain, John Smit, Fijian legend Vili Delasau, Pumas star Mario Ledesma, French star Aurelien Rougerie or a couple of Georgian internationals. All in all, there are players from 10 different nations at the club.
"I am learning all the time and there is a great mix. There is the French flair and philosophy as well as the more conservative attitude of the Argentinians, English, South Africans and Kiwis."
And King believes more players could follow in his footsteps.
"I'm surprised more English players haven't tried their luck in France," he said. "It improves your perspective on the game and life. It is a fantastic contrast to playing in England and it helps you to find out more about yourself by removing you from your comfort zone.
"It was like the first day at a new school when I arrived for my first training session, but I've settled down quickly and I'm living the experience.
"When the chance came to experience the French Championship and learn about a different life-style I just felt it was something I couldn't turn down. I had the chance to stay at Wasps, but I just felt as though I needed to broaden my horizons and stretch myself.
"I spoke to Ian McGeechan and Shaun Edwards, two men who have tried so many different things in their amazing careers, about the prospect of moving to France and they understood my feelings and backed my decision. I had only known one club, and one way of doing things, in 11 seasons at Wasps and I felt a change would be good for me.
"I've kept in touch with both Geech and Shaun since I moved to Clermont and I'm looking forward to seeing them both over the next few weeks.
"I also had a chat to Stephen Jones about Clermont before making my decision to join. He was all in favour of the move and told me just how much he got out of the move and how much he enjoyed it. He obviously left a favourable impression because the players and fans were delighted to see him when the Scarlets came to Clermont in Round 1.
"It is a fantastic experience. I'm seeing a totally different set-up and way of life. I'm also learning a bit of French as well. As far as I'm concerned, the Wasps chapter of my rugby life has closed and I have opened a new, exciting one at Clermont.
"I had an amazing 11 years at Wasps and I just felt there was no better way to end my career with the club than winning the Heineken Cup in front of a world record crowd at Twickenham Stadium. That was the way to bow out.
"The team has evolved over the past 10 years. Lawrence, Simon Shaw, Josh Lewsey and Joe Worsley have provided the backbone of the side, but now there is a new generation coming through.
"Another one of the secrets of the club is that the players have stuck together through thick and thin and there hasn't been a huge turn over in playing personnel. There has been some heartache along the way, but there have also been three Guinness Premiership titles, two Heineken Cup triumphs, a European Challenge Cup win and an EDF Energy Cup victory.
"There are some great youngsters coming through at Wasps and you can see a new team emerging with players like Tom Rees, George Skivington, Eoin Reddan, Danny Cipriani, Dom Waldouck and James Haskell becoming more influential in the squad.
"Danny is an exceptional talent. Outside half is definitely his best position and he has all the attributes to go on and play for England at No 10. I think he could dominate that position for England for many years to come - which is a pretty bold statement given the amount of talent available in the country at the moment.
"He is a very confident young man and he could be at no better club in order to develop as a player. He's had a great start to the season at outside half, helping Wasps to beat Munster in opposition to Ronan O'Gara and the Scarlets against Stephen Jones."
FRIDAY 7 DECEMBER, 2007
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