Elliot Daly planning to impose himself on Wasps' Champions Cup opener against Ulster

Charlie Morgan
Elliot Daly - Getty Images Europe

Wasps’ current predicament reminds a few around the club of 2011/12 campaign, when an extraordinary spate of injuries required newly-appointed director of rugby Dai Young to use emerging youngsters Joe Launchbury and Elliot Daly in the first team.

Daly flitted across the backline early in his career, and has had to prepare for an unfamiliar role in recent weeks as well. 

With twin playmakers Danny Cipriani and Jimmy Gopperth absent for the visit to Allianz Park on Sunday, Wasps’ regular outside centre - a Test wing for the British and Irish Lions - was covering for stand-in fly-half Rob Miller.

“I hadn’t played 10 since maybe Under-16s at school,” he said earlier this week. “I was very keen for it, though.”

Despite his enthusiasm and diligence - Daly took extra time to make notes on lineouts before the trip to Saracens - it proved too difficult to improvise against the European champions during a 38-19 loss.

A fourth consecutive Premiership defeat for Wasps has plunged them to 10th in the domestic table, so the Champions Cup comes as a refreshing change. But it is not as good as a rest. Gopperth, Launchbury and Nathan Hughes are named to face Ulster. Still, the opening pool-stage assignment looks excruciatingly tough just five days after their last outing.

Daly chases down Alex Lozowski Credit: CAMERASPORT

“We had a day off on Monday,” Daly explained diplomatically earlier this week. “Tuesday and Wednesday we had training and then we fly on Thursday. So we got two training sessions in, which is one less than in a normal week.  You have to narrow in on what you want in those sessions and make sure everyone knows what they are doing.

 “We need to get our attack going. In these next two games we have to try score some good tries and put some good shapes together.

"To have a new competition is perfect for us and hopefully we can play well in these two games and take that into the Premiership.”

Reflecting Young’s desire for focus and a no-excuse attitude, Daly also wants to impose himself more than he has managed since re-joining Wasps in the wake of his Lions tour.

“I probably haven’t got my hands on the ball as much as I’d have wanted to so far,” he admitted. “It has been those type of games where we have scored a couple of quick tries and then conceded a few and not had as much possession as we would have liked.

“I’m going to try to get my hands on the ball and link with some players in these next two games and make things happen.”

Despite registering five wins from their first six Pro14 fixtures, Ulster have their own injury issues. Outstanding Springbok flanker Marcel Coetzee has suffered a new set-back in his long-standing knee trouble. Neither Rory Best nor Jared Payne will feature. However, Wasps know their chief dangerman, Charles Piutau, all too well.

Piutau excelled during his one season with Wasps Credit: SPORTSFILE

“He is a great guy,” Daly said of the blockbuster All Black, his teammate for a sparkling 2015/16 season. “He’s someone you just pass the ball to and he’ll do something special… we’ll have to look out for him - it would be nice if he was on our side.

“He set up a try the other week for them by running from his own half. We have to be wary of him but they have quality around the pitch, so we are going to have to be good with our kicking game and not give him too much space.”

A last-play try against Exeter Chiefs at the Ricoh Arena in the 2016 Champions Cup quarter-final constituted one of Piutau’s more dramatic contributions for Wasps. Daly, who rates him as one of the best finishers on the planet, knows to expect the unexpected from a player capable of conjuring “something from nothing”.

“The unpredictability of him means anything is on at any time. He is strong in the close quarters and has got good acceleration as well…hopefully we can shut him down.”

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