Wasps - Key pointers for the coming season which kicks off tonight
Major ins – Tom Bristow (Leicester Tigers), James Downey (Glasgow Warriors), Jimmy Gopperth (Leinster), Frank Halai (Blues), James Johnston (Saracens), Brendan Macken (Leinster), Charles Piutau (Blues), Alex Rieder (Rotherham Titans), Dan Robson (Gloucester), George Smith (Lyon), Jamie Stevenson (London Scottish).
Major outs – Charlie Davies (Newport Gwent Dragons), Will Helu (Edinburgh), Ed Jackson (Newport Gwent Dragons), Tom Lindsay (Gloucester), Jack Moates (Jersey), Will Taylor (Scarlets), Tom Varndell (Bristol), Chris Bell, Andy Goode, John Yapp (all retired).
On paper, no one’s summer additions compares to Wasps. Christian Wade will be joined in the back three by Frank Halai and Charles Piutau, forming one of the most exciting position groups in the Premiership, while George Smith adds his colossal experience and formidable ability to a back row of James Haskell and Nathan Hughes.
The club’s longstanding issue at hooker seems to have been solved by moving Ashley Johnson into the front row and they’ve bulked up at tighthead, adding 140kg of Samoan muscle in the form of former Saracen, James Johnston.
It’s a big season for Hughes, not only because Wasps have invested heavily and will be expecting results from their talented squad, but also because he qualifies for England (under current rules) in 2016. With ball in hand and space to build up momentum, Hughes is as uncontainable as any forward in the Premiership and with Smith and Haskell putting in the graft, he should be free to roam the pitch and search for mismatches.
If Wasps don’t return to the playoffs with this squad, something will have gone very wrong. From one to fifteen they have talent and depth and are without doubt in the best shape to challenge for the Premiership since they last won the competition in 2008.