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Matt Mullan captains the side from the front row, where he is joined by Phil Swainston and Tommy Taylor, who returns to the club from England camp.
Packing down behind them will be Matt Symons and Kearnan Myall, while James Gaskell again lines up in the back row, alongside Thomas Young and Guy Thompson.
Dan Robson and Danny Cipriani form the half back partnership, with Jimmy Gopperth and Kyle Eastmond combining in midfield. Rob Miller, Christian Wade and Josh Bassett form Wasps’ back three.
Ahead of the trip to Kingsholm, where Wasps narrowly lost out 13-10 last season, Dai Young said:
“I’m sure there’s going to be lots of talk down there about knocking us over on the weekend, like they did last year, and re-igniting their season. They’ve been unlucky in a few games this year and I think their luck is going to change soon, so we’re certainly wary of how good a team they are.
“It’s up to us to make sure we enforce our game plan and are accurate if we want to get the win. We were on a really good run when we went to Kingsholm last year, but lost the game and that was probably the one loss in some big games that was the difference between us finishing second or third in the table.
“Gloucester have a huge amount of pace and dangerous players in their backline and they have a really strong pack, with a good set piece. Their line speed is also really good so I’m sure they will try to stop us playing and they have a number of players who really like to attack the contact area.”
Wasps team to play Gloucester at Kingsholm
15. Rob Miller
14. Christian Wade
13. Kyle Eastmond
12. Jimmy Gopperth
11. Josh Bassett
10. Danny Cipriani
9. Dan Robson
1. Matt Mullan ©
2. Tommy Taylor
3. Phil Swainston
4. Matt Symons
5. Kearnan Myall
6. James Gaskell
7. Thomas Young
8. Guy Thompson
16. Tom Cruse
17. Tom Bristow
18. Marty Moore
19. Will Rowlands
20. Ashley Johnson
21. Joe Simpson
22. Frank Halai
23. Alapati Leiua
Injury update starting Phase Two of the season
· James Haskell – toe, expected to return to full-training in December.
· Sam Jones - broken leg & ankle ligament damage, ruled out for the rest of the calendar year.
· Simon McIntyre - has undergone an operation on his ankle and is expected to be out for another couple of months.
· Alex Lundberg- is progressing well from an ankle injury and is due back towards the end of November.
· Jake Cooper-Woolley – knee, expected to return to training in December.
· Kurtley Beale – knee, hoping to return to full-training mid-December.
· Nick De Luca – following concussion protocols
· Craig Hampson – hamstring, expected to return to training next week.
To arrive February:
· Willie Le Roux
On international duty:
· Joe Launchbury, Elliot Daly, Nathan Hughes
Wasps were made to work very hard by Newcastle Falcons, as they eventually got a 31-6 bonus point win with the final play of the game.
Despite being far from their best, Wasps had enough to see off a resolute Newcastle side, who dominated long periods of the game.
After going 17-0 down in the first half, the visitors looked capable of pulling off a shock victory, before Wasps belatedly found their fluency, with replacement Danny Cipriani sending Jimmy Gopperth in for two late tries. The second, well after the clock reached zero, secured a bonus point which means that Wasps are only one point behind leaders Saracens, ahead of the two-week break for the Anglo-Welsh Cup.
Newcastle enjoyed plenty of possession in the opening minutes, but the Wasps defence, showing impressive line speed, denied them any space and the game was played largely between the 22s.
When Wasps found their way into Newcastle territory, they conceded a turnover in midfield, then lost a scrum on their own put-in. After seven minutes, a high tackle on Christian Wade gave Wasps the chance to make their first incursion into the Newcastle 22 but the lineout was lost.
Three minutes later, a scrum went down on halfway and there was a lengthy stoppage as Marty Moore required treatment before being carried off on a stretcher as a precautionary measure. Jake Cooper-Woolley took his place in the front row.
Wasps had been struggling to build any momentum, but they finally burst into life on thirteen minutes when they ran the ball from deep. Frank Halai was stopped just inside the Newcastle half, but Rob Miller darted through a gap to take play deep into the 22. The defence conceded a penalty and Jimmy Gopperth opened the scoring from 25 metres.
This seemed to provide the spark Wasps had needed, as they immediately launched into a flowing attack after Kyle Eastmond found some space in midfield. Joe Launchbury joined the move before feeding Rob Miller, who was stopped near the left corner. The ball was moved back across the field, where Eastmond had the unmarked Christian Wade outside him. The potential scoring pass was deflected into the path of Frank Halai, who gathered and looked to have scored near the corner. After a lengthy consultation with the TMO, the referee ruled that Simon Hammersley had been guilty of a deliberate knock-on. The fullback was shown a yellow card and a penalty try was awarded, which Gopperth duly converted.
Barely a minute later, Halai crossed the line again and this time his try counted. Man of the match Joe Launchbury’s superb chase and catch gave Wasps quick ball. They moved play out to the left and Elliot Daly chipped deep into the Newcastle 22. Halai gathered the bouncing ball and stepped inside the cover to go over near the corner. Gopperth’s conversion took the score to 17-0 with 20 minutes played.
The visitors responded strongly, winning a series of penalties deep inside the Wasps 22. From the third, the lineout drive was forced back several metres. When the ball was released, Sinoti Sinoti came off his wing to go for the line, but Newcastle were penalised.
Although the penalty failed to find touch, Mike Delany’s kick went out on the full, giving Wasps a lineout, just inside the visitors’ half. Quick passing gave Christian Wade the chance to break away down the left, but he was forced into touch a few metres outside the 22.
Another lengthy passage of play saw the ball criss-cross the field several times before Ashley Johnson’s ambitious reverse pass failed to find a Wasps hand and the ball sailed harmlessly into touch, 15 metres inside the Newcastle half.
With six minutes of the half still to play, Matt Mullan won a turnover just inside the Newcastle half. Wasps moved the ball quickly out to the left, where Jimmy Gopperth went through a gap before chipping infield. Mike Delany did well to cover under extreme pressure. A clearance was half-charged-down by Joe Launchbury and Kyle Eastmond did well to leap high and gather the ricochet to keep the attack going, but Wasps were unable to find their way through the defence.
With under a minute left before the break, Wasps were penalised on their 22, directly in front of the posts. Mike Delany’s kick opened his side’s score and brought the half to an end with Wasps holding a 17-3 lead.
The visitors began the second half with several minutes of possession, but the aggressive Wasps defence never looked like cracking and Delany again found touch on the full, allowing Wasps to cross halfway. Further Newcastle pressure won them a penalty inside the Wasps 22, when Guy Thompson was trapped at the bottom of a ruck and penalised for not rolling away. He was injured in the process and left the field for a head injury assessment, to be replaced by James Gaskell. Delany had the simplest of kicks, to narrow the gap to 17-6.
Directly from the restart, Newcastle displayed their growing confidence with a thrilling attack from the 22. When Marcus Watson slipped a tackle to burst through to the Wasps 22, the alarm bells were ringing, but possession was spilt and Elliot Daly’s clearance found touch, 15 metres inside the Newcastle half.
Dan Robson then replaced Joe Simpson with Rob Miller made way for Danny Cipriani. Cipriani went to fly half, with Jimmy Gopperth dropping back to fullback. Moments later, Guy Thompson returned to the field. Elliot Daly then displayed fine sportsmanship when he chased Danny Cipriani’s kick ahead. Simon Hammersley gathered, inside his 22, but jarred his knee and landed awkwardly. He lost control of the ball and Daly only had to pick it up, to stroll over for a try. Instead, he stayed with the injured Hammersley, who was helped from the field.
Wasps had been struggling to find any fluency and the visitors were completely dominant. Former Wasp Dominic Waldouck went close on the left and Newcastle were then denied a try when Juan Pablo Socino was ruled to have lost control of the ball, as he went over by the posts. Several minutes of severe pressure were ended, when Wasps won a penalty a few metres from their line.
Wasps then came close to snatching a third try, completely against the run of play, when Danny Cipriani sent a kick towards the left corner. It was rolling into the in-goal area, with Sinoti Sinoti strolling after it, when Guy Thompson appeared from nowhere and dived for the ball. The TMO ruled that he had not grounded the ball, but the third try came with eleven minutes left. Wasps attacked down the left and Cipriani’s inside pass sent Jimmy Gopperth in for a fine try, which took him past a hundred Premiership points for the season. Gopperth added the extra two points, taking Wasps clear at 24-6, and chasing a bonus point which had been looking well beyond them.
Seven minutes from time, Jake Cooper-Woolley was helped from the field. With no more props on the bench, the game went to uncontested scrums. Wasps put together a lengthy attack, which won them a penalty with the clock at zero. They went for the corner and were nearly forced into touch, before the drive was straightened and play came infield. Another penalty was conceded in front of the posts. Nathan Hughes’s drive was stopped, play went out to the left before coming back out to the right, and Cipriani’s precision pass sent Jimmy Gopperth in for his second try of the day, and fifth of the Premiership season. The Kiwi’s conversion ended the afternoon, leaving the final score at a slightly flattering 31-6.
A last minute conversion by Jimmy Gopperth from a Nathan Hughes' try gave Wasps a 20-20 draw with Toulouse.
Six months ago, Jimmy Gopperth landed the kick of the season, to take Wasps through to the semi-finals of the Champions Cup. On a sunny afternoon at the Stade Ernest Wallon, it was Gopperth who kept his nerve to convert Nathan Hughes’s 79th-minute try and secure a draw, which means Wasps end round 2 of the pool games on seven points - two behind Connacht, after their bonus point win over Zebre. Toulouse are in third place, on three points.
Wasps can count themselves lucky to have gone in level at halftime, after the home side dominated the first forty minutes. After conceding an early second half try, Wasps began to find their attacking fluency and drew level with Josh Bassett’s 62nd-minute score. Gael Fickou’s try, 12 minutes from time, appeared to have sealed a home victory, before Wasps’ late gamesaver.
Toulouse had the first attacking opportunity, after Wasps were ruled to have brought down a scrum, ten metres inside the home half. Toby Flood’s penalty found touch on the Wasps 22, and Toulouse took play through several phases, before the defence forced a knock-on, ten metres from the line. Wasps won possession, but Dan Robson was put under so much pressure that Wasps were driven back to their line, where they conceded a penalty, 13 metres in from the right touchline. Sebastien Bezy’s kick was well off target.
A wayward Toulouse pass, inside their own half, gave Wasps an attacking lineout 35 metres out, but possession was disrupted, resulting in a Toulouse scrum. They took play up to the Wasps 22, but offended at the breakdown, and Danny Cipriani’s penalty found touch on halfway. They won possession, but the attack broke down and possession was turned over, allowing Toulouse to go through a further series of phases, before they conceded another penalty on the Wasps 22. For around a minute, Wasps had been defending with 14 men, as Thomas Young was down, receiving treatment. After a break which tested the patience of the home crowd, he left the field, to be replaced by Guy Thompson, with 12 minutes gone.
Tommy Taylor then required treatment for a shoulder injury. He stayed on the field, but immediately delivered a scewed lineout throw and soon required further treatment. Play went on without him, with Toulouse throwing in to a lineout, 35 metres from their line. Although they won possession, Nathan Hughes emerged with the ball and made several metres before feeding Guy Thompson, who took play towards the 22, before Toulouse were penalised. Jimmy Gopperth’s kick opened the score, in the 18th minute.
Three minutes later, a Toulouse penalty took play into the Wasps 22. A slow, controlled driving lineout made its way towards the line, before it was stopped, at the cost of a penalty, 14 metres in from the right touchline. Bezy’s kick levelled the scores.
By now, Thomas Young was back on the field, but Wasps were forced into another replacement, when Tommy Taylor made way for Tom Cruse.
Toulouse continued to dominate territory and possession, and they went ahead on the half-hour, after Nathan Hughes broke from a scrum in the Wasps 22, but a breakdown penalty was conceded, right in front of the posts. Bezy’s mis-hit kick went over, to put his side ahead. That lead lasted barely a minute. After Danny Cipriani’s towering restart was knocked on, Wasps gathered and moved infield. Toulouse were penalised on the 22, and Jimmy Gopperth made no mistake, to draw things level at 6-6.
Three minutes before the break, Dan Robson found touch ten metres from the Toulouse line, to give Wasps their best attacking position of the half. Joe Launchbury stole possession and made a surge for the line, but Toby Flood won a turnover and a penalty, and the ball was cleared towards the 10-metre line. From the lineout, a high kick went up, which Wasps failed to control. Another penalty was kicked to the corner. Christian Wade was in position to cover, but it bounced off his leg, into touch-in-goal, giving Toulouse a 5-metre scrum, with 40 minutes showing on the clock.
Two free-kicks led to further scrums, before Wasps appeared to have driven their opponents backwards, only to be penalised for wheeling. Another scrum wheeled, but the referee ruled that it should simply go down again. Before the ball could go in, Wasps were again penalised. The next scrum was completed and Bezy made a dart for the line, but the Wasps defence held firm and the whistle blew for halftime. The 6-all scoreline hardly reflected a largely drab 40 minutes, but Wasps will have gone in the happier, after being on the back foot throughout and producing none of the flowing rugby which had characterised their start to the season.
The frustration of the home crowd was reflected in the chorus of boos and whistles which greeted Wasps as they returned for the second half. Two changes saw Guy Thompson back on for Thomas Young, and Marty Moore replacing Jake Cooper-Woolley.
Toulouse applied the early pressure, and it took a courageous tackle by Dan Robson to stop Christopher Tolofua, a few metres from the right corner. When play came back across the field, Christian Wade and Jimmy Gopperth combined to force Paul Perez into touch near the left corner. Wade then did well to make a mark from Maxime Medard’s chip, a metre from the line. He took the kick quickly and fed Danny Cipriani, who tried to break from defence. He was smothered, but Dan Robson’s clearance took Wasps 30 metres upfield. Toulouse won the lineout, and it took a timely interception by Josh Bassett to cut off a threatening attack on the right. Play came back infield, and Danny Cipriani tried an ambitious chip from behind the line. It was charged down and replacement prop Census Johnston crashed over near the posts. Bezy converted, to put the home side 13-6 ahead.
Wasps immediately produced their most fluent passage of play so far. They appeared to have created an overlap on the left, but the opportunity was lost, when a Toulouse hand seemed to deflect the ball behind Nathan Hughes, allowing the defence to press upfield and win a scrum put-in. Wasps won a penalty from the scrum, which they took quickly, but the ball was spilt, a few metres from the line.
A few minutes later, Christian Wade gathered a high ball near the right touchline, a few metres inside the Wasps half. He came infield and skipped past a series of tacklers, to launch their most sustained passage of play of the game. It again ended in frustration, when a penalty was conceded. Wasps were now beginning to play with real fluency, and Jimmy Gopperth came into the line, to break the defence. He had Guy Thompson unmarked on his inside, but the replacement was ruled to have knocked on, as he reached for a pass which had gone just behind him. The decision was made by the TMO, after it appeared that the ball may have come off a Toulouse hand.
With eighteen minutes left, Wasps conjured up the try they had been threatening, when a fine move, started by Christian Wade’s midfield run, ended with Josh Bassett sprinting in from 25 metres, for his fifth try in five games. Jimmy Gopperth landed a missable conversion to bring the scores level again.
By now, Joe Simpson, Kearnan Myall and Alapati Leiua had taken over from Dan Robson and Matt Symons, with Leiua coming on for try scorer Bassett, before the restart. Twelve minutes from time, Toulouse reclaimed the lead, when a series of thrusts from the forwards sucked in enough defenders for Gael Fickou to go through a gap and power over out on the left. Bezy’s conversion made it 20-13.
Tom Bristow replaced Matt Mullan, after 71 minutes, with Toulouse back on the offensive Sensing the chance to deny Wasps a bonus point, they began using the wide spaces and came close to a decisive score, when the ball was knocked on, five metres from the line.
With two minutes left, Wasps were throwing caution to the wind. Nathan Hughes broke from a scrum in their own half and sent Joe Simpson racing through midfield. With no support to his left, he was forced to come back infield. The ball was moved out to the right, and Hughes powered through a tackle to go over near the corner. Under enormous pressure, Jimmy Gopperth landed the conversion to level the scores. There was still time for a restart and Wasps were able to control the ball and play the clock down, before Danny Cipriani’s touch kick ended a dramatic afternoon.
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After his side scored 12 tries, Dai Young was understandably happy with the way Wasps kicked off their Champions Cup campaign.
"We couldn't have asked for much more today, getting the five points secured early on in the game and we kept our foot on the pedal which was pleasing. You obviously never get a perfect performance, but you've certainly got to be pleased with that out there today.
Explaining how the result was achieved Young said:
"We talked about keeping our structures and sticking to the plan all week. There was obviously a bit more space out there than when we played Saracens last week. We kept that mental pressure on Zebre today and we didn't ease up as the game went on. It is quite easy to come off structure, so the important thing for us was to keep within our structures and to keep working on getting some penetration. If we can get penetration, we've obviously got the backs that can finish off chances for us if you put them into space."
When asked for an assessment of where he currently sees his Wasps team's ability to challenge at the very highest level,Young said:
"I'm quite honest with our players and with the media, I think we are a very good team and when we are playing at our best, with tempo, we're a very tough team to beat. Teams are going to target us and try to stop us playing with any tempo and take us on at set piece time. We know what teams are going to try and achieve, so it is up to us to try to really dominate that area. We also know that if we're not at our best, other teams will beat us so it's about going out and doing ourselves justice.
"We've now lost that underdog tag and we know there are some big games on the horizon. For us we just need to worry about ourselves, while always being respectful of the opposition. We need to set our own standards and work week-to-week to improve individually and collectively."
Looking ahead to Toulouse next week, Young said:
"Let's enjoy tonight, it's going to be a big challenge next week but one that we are looking forward to. That is the challenge that we now want, challenges that we run into, not away from. We want to go into the next few games with lots of confidence and the result today will certainly help to build that confidence."
Coaches are notoriously difficult to please and even after such a comprehensive win Young found some areas of the performance that he wants to improve.
"We were a little bit sloppy for the two tries we conceded, but we were probably forcing it a little bit during the first half. Our discipline wasn't fantastic and that poor discipline kept Zebre in the game really as it gave them field-position. So that is going to be a big message going forward. We'll have a look at this performance, it wasn't perfect, but we were pleased with it and we know there are areas that we are going to have to improve on for next week."
After securing their try bonus on 24 minutes, they added three more five-pointers to lead by 42 points to 14 at the break. Six second-half tries took them to their highest ever score, try tally and winning margin in Champions or Heineken Cup.
Wasps took just over two minutes to take the lead, after Josh Bassett gathered a clearance kick 15 metres inside the Zebre half. He came infield and the ball was controlled through a series of phases, with Nathan Hughes making a characteristic marauding charge and Kyle Eastmond putting in a threatening diagonal run. After the defence had been stretched on both sides, Danny Cipriani moved the ball out to the right and Elliot Daly’s slick pass sent Rob Miller over for the opening score, which Cipriani converted.
A second try followed on seven minutes, after Wasps had sent a penalty to the right corner. They won the line out, Thomas Young made good ground before the ball was moved out to the left and Jake Cooper-Woolley crashed over. Cipriani again added the extra points to put his side 14-0 ahead.
Directly from the re-start, skipper Joe Launchbury showed his athleticism with an impressive burst out of defence. He made nearly 30 metres before finding Elliot Daly outside him, but the centre was forced into touch as he passed inside to Joe Simpson just short of halfway.
Three minutes later, Zebre number 8 Andries Van Schalkwyk was shown a yellow card for a tip tackle on Joe Launchbury. It took just two minutes for Wasps to make the most of their numerical superiority when Joe Simpson took Danny Cipriani’s well-timed pass to finish off a flowing move which had begun with Nathan Hughes’ powerful run from the base of a scrum 35 metres out. Cipriani added the conversion.
Despite being a man down, the visitors showed their resolve when a driving lineout ended in a try for Federico Ruzza, who had just replaced Jacopo Sarto in the back row. Edoardo Padovani’s conversion made the score 21-7. Van Schalkwyk then returned from the sin-bin.
Wasps secured their fourth try after 24 minutes, just two minutes outside the Heineken or Champions Cup record for the quickest ever try bonus, set last year by Stade Francais. Danny Cipriani sent a perfectly-placed kick towards the right corner. It was gathered by Frank Halai inches from the touchline. He did well to stay infield before feeding Rob Miller, who went over in the corner for his second try. Cipriani kept up his 100% record with his most difficult kick of the afternoon.
Almost immediately, Halai was the finisher after James Gaskell’s charge had split the Zebre defence. He passed outside to Joe Simpson, who cut back infield before Danny Cipriani’s long pass found Halai, who went over from 25 metres. Cipriani landed his fifth conversion taking the lead to 35-7.
Wasps were now moving the ball from their own 22, but their enterprise backfired on them when Ruzza intercepted a pass to cross for his second try of the afternoon five minutes before halftime. Padovani again converted.
Wasps responded with their sixth try in the final minute of the half. Awarded a penalty in front of the posts, they opted for a scrum. As it wheeled round to the right, Nathan Hughes did well to flick the ball up to Joe Simpson. The scrum half slipped a tackle before feeding Ashley Johnson, who powered his way over from a couple of metres. Cipriani made it 6 from 6 to leave the halftime score at 42-14.
It took just eleven seconds of the second half for Wasps to cross for their eighth try. Elliot Daly gathered Danny Cipriani’s restart and shook off a tackle to charge over from 15 metres. Cipriani’s first miss of the afternoon left the score at 47-14.
Nine minutes into the half, Carlo Festuccia’s return to the Ricoh Arena suffered a further blow when he was sent to the sin bin for a breakdown offence. MOTM Danny Cipriani then left the fray, with Jimmy Gopperth moving to fly half as Kyle Eastmond returned from a head injury assessment. Eastmond immediately produced a dazzling piece of footwork to shred the defence and set up an opportunity on the left. Josh Bassett was stopped just short of the line, but managed to offload to Thomas Young who got the ball down, but the TMO ruled no try. for a foot in touch. Wasps made up for their disappointment by stealing the Zebre lineout and skipper Joe Launchbury showed considerable strength to twist over for the try, which was converted by Jimmy Gopperth.
Wasps then made two further changes, with Tom Bristow replacing Matt Mullan and Elliot Daly’s departure allowing Alapati Leiua to make a welcome return after a lengthy lay-off for his second ACL reconstruction. The centre was immediately prominent in the build-up to Wasps’ ninth try, scored when Josh Bassett appeared out wide on the right to go over in the corner. Jimmy Gopperth’s conversion stretched the score to 61-14. Phil Swainston and Matt Symons were the next Wasps replacements, taking the places of Jake Cooper-Woolley and Joe Launchbury.
Wasps then produced the best try of the day with a glorious length-of-the field move. It was a searing burst by Josh Bassett which split the defence and his pass sent Joe Simpson over for his second try of the day. Gopperth duly added the conversion and Simpson made way for Dan Robson, meaning that Wasps had used all their replacements with nearly fifteen minutes still to play.
Twelve minutes from time, Wasps added another spectacular try from defence. After a rare breakaway almost led to a third try for Zebre, a timely interception launched a counterattack. Dan Robson chipped into the 22 and gathered his kick, but was stopped a few metres short. The ball was recycled and James Gaskell was on hand to go over for his side’s eleventh try, which was again converted by Gopperth.
Four minutes later, Wasps broke two of their Heineken and Champions Cup records when Dan Robson took Kyle Eastmond’s outrageously good offload to go over between the posts. This took them past their record tally of 77 points and eleven tries, both achieved in the 77-17 victory over Toulouse in 1996. The 82-14 final scoreline was Wasps’ biggest ever winning margin in Europe’s premier competition, beating the 71-5 win in Treviso in 2006.
The Wasps’ fly half / inside centre so far this season, who yesterday signed a new contract with his club, has been in scintillating form this season as Wasps finished the first six rounds of Aviva Premiership Rugby in second place, losing just once to defending champions Saracens.
Gopperth is Aviva Premiership Rugby’s leading points scorer with an impressive 90 from those six games – including three tries – and lies second in the race for the Gilbert Golden Boot behind Bath Rugby’s George Ford.
The 33 year-old, who won back-to-back Gilbert Golden Boot awards with Newcastle Falcons in 2010 and 2011, has notched up 33 appearances and 343 points in black and gold since joining from Leinster last season.
Gopperth was involved in a four-way battle for this month’s title, eventually beating team mates Guy Thompson and Sam Jones and Bath Rugby scrum-half Kahn Fotuali'i to the crown.
On receiving the award, Gopperth said:
It’s been a pretty exciting week – firstly to do the contract and then to pick up an award like this. When you see the quality of players on the list, who have been playing brilliantly, it’s pretty satisfying but to be honest I think I’m getting this award on behalf of most of our team.
“The way the squad has played over the last five or six weeks has made my job a lot easier and it’s been really fun to be a part of. We’ve had some standout individuals which you can see from Sam [Jones] and Guy [Thompson] also being recognised for Wasps, alongside Kahn at Bath. There have been so many players going well in the Aviva Premiership, which is what makes it so competitive every week. As I say, the way the group here at Wasps has been playing, it’s been really exciting to be part of.”
Gopperth was voted for by a panel of media professionals – Nick Mullins (BT Sport), Alastair Eykyn (BT Sport), Mick Cleary (The Daily Telegraph), Steve James (The Sunday Telegraph), Sarah Mockford (Rugby World), Jill Douglas (ITV Sport), Chris Jones (BBC 5 Live), David Rogers (Getty Images) and Ben Coles (Planet Rugby). The panel was chaired by Paul Morgan, Premiership Rugby's Communications Director.
Gopperth wins a trophy and a £250 donation to the charity of his choice.
Winners in the 2016-17 season
September – Jimmy Gopperth (Wasps)
Winners in the 2015-16 season
October – Nick Evans (Harlequins)
November – Nathan Hughes (Wasps)
December – Maro Itoje (Saracens)
January – Thomas Waldrom (Exeter Chiefs)
February – George Smith (Wasps)
March – Francois Hougaard (Worcester Warriors)
April – Teimana Harrison (Northampton Saints)
Winners in the 2014-15 season
September – Kyle Eastmond (Bath Rugby)
October – Semesa Rokoduguni (Bath Rugby)
November – Thomas Waldrom (Exeter Chiefs)
December – Samu Manoa (Northampton Saints)
January – Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby)
February – Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs)
March – Elliot Daly (Wasps)
April – Joe Simpson (Wasps)
Winners in the 2013-14 season
September – Jacques Burger (Saracens)
October – Samu Manoa (Northampton Saints)
November - George Ford (Bath Rugby)
December – Nick Easter (Harlequins)
January – Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
February – Vereniki Goneva (Leicester Tigers)
March – Danny Cipriani (Sale Sharks)
April – Chris Ashton (Saracens)
When Zebre take on Wasps at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday, October 15 (KO 1:00) in the European Champions Cup they will be the first ever professional rugby team from Italy to play in the city.
To mark the historic milestone, the Italian family-run Etna Restaurant in the city centre has served up its own special pizza in honour of the team’s visit to the region. It’s called ‘The Zebre’, and recreates the black and white club crest using mozzarella and olives.
Carmelo Grasso is manager at the restaurant, which has been trading on Hertford Street for over 35 years.
He said: “I couldn’t resist doing something different to mark this occasion. I first moved to the city from Italy 50 years ago, so to finally have an Italian team playing on my doorstep after so long is exciting news.
“We entertain a lot of rugby fans who pass through the city centre on Wasps match days, and they’re all buzzing about their start to the season.
“A sharing of the spoils would be great from my point of view, and a visit from some of my Italian friends would really top the day off.”
Tickets for Wasps vs Zebre are available here starting from £15 for adults, while under-10s go free.