Stage set for St George's Day Game
April 22, 2010
Wasps' Tom Rees continued his comeback against London Irish last weekend © Getty Images
For once, I have an entry to make that is mostly about rugby. I've been back playing now for four games and each week I feel more prepared than the last as my body adapts to the bumps and bruises. Speak to anyone who has played rugby, at any level, and they will all understand what is meant by the term match fitness. You can do as much training as you like but nothing you do will fully simulate the intensity and workload of a game and the effect it has on you after the final whistle.
I've had some people ask how I managed to get through the 80 minutes in my first game against Northampton, but to be honest I didn't have too many doubts I'd be able to finish the game (although I didn't know it was going to be an issue as the coaches had said I'd only play 50 minutes). This was down to a combination of the amount of fitness work that I'd done while injured and the adrenalin rush I was feeling at my first rugby in a year. The real challenge was trying to recover afterwards, and despite not training for most of the week, I only lasted 55 minutes against London Irish. Not finishing that game and only playing for 25 minutes off the bench the following week against Gloucester, gave me a chance to fully recover and I can feel that I'm starting to adapt to the demands of playing and recovering far quicker.
As for the games themselves, things have been going very well. With the new interpretation of the breakdown preventing players from easily killing the ball and the turn in the weather, attacking rugby has come to the fore. Our form has also been good for the last few weeks and this has led to some of our best rugby of the season right when it matters. Our Amlin Challenge Cup victory over Gloucester a fortnight ago has given us a home semi-final against Cardiff to look forward to and as the Premiership draws to a close things are getting incredibly tight at both ends of the table.
Last weekend's game against Worcester was a perfect example of this. With our goal of the play-offs and theirs of avoiding relegation the game was hugely important for both sides. Our strong start led to a near 20 point lead after 25 minutes, and had Worcester not had much to play for it could have been a walk over. As it was, they dug deep and came right back into the match, and while we held out for victory, the 24-20 score line was far tighter than we'd have liked.
It was however the first time that a Wasps side had won in the league at Sixways and many of our previous defeats had been in tight games we could have won, so this was still an achievement to get four points.
This weekend is our match against Bath in the first St George's Day Game. The event has been planned for months now and will be a great day out, and while the penultimate game of the season was always going to be an important match, few would have predicted it being as big as this. Two teams, both with their sights set on the play-offs, victory will keep their fate in their own hands and see off one close rival, defeat will all but end hopes for a top four finish. At the Club we've been saying over the last few weeks that we're pretty much already playing knock out rugby, and this game is the perfect example of that.
On top of the importance of the fixture, having the game at Twickenham will add yet more to the occasion and with £1 per ticket going to Help for Heroes, it lends support to a fantastic cause.
Aside from rugby, I've not really got anything to say! Things have been fairly hectic since returning to play so I've not had a lot of time for much else, but at this stage of the season, I probably wouldn't want it any other way.