Guy Thompson says, despite being firm underdogs, Wasps go into this Sunday’s trip to Toulon full of belief.
This weekend, Wasps turn their focus back to the European Champions Cup and their trip to play three-time European champions Toulon, after snatching a last-gasp bonus-point victory over Worcester, which saw them move up to sixth in the Aviva Premiership table. Thompson was one of the bright sparks from the bench who helped to kick start the Wasps’ late comeback. A try of his own, which saw him bounce off two defenders before reaching out to dot down under the sticks, was the highlight in an energetic display from the bench and he says he was happy to be able to make an impact on the game as a replacement. “At that point we knew we had to play a bit more rugby and it was an opportunity for me to get on the pitch and get a few carries under my belt. Going into the game we knew they were going to be gritty, they were going to be tough and we’d have to play for the full 80 minutes, and that’s how it turned out. “I’ve played from the bench a few times for Wasps now and it’s important to read the game and realise what’s happening. This week it required a bit of energy, a bit of go forward, some momentum, and luckily I was able to provide a bit of that. In other games, it’s about fitting into the system and fulfilling a slightly different role. We all want to be starting, so I know I’ve got to do the job I’m there to do and push for a spot. “On the bench you can see things that aren’t always as easy to see in the heat of the action on the field. We knew we were one or two passes away and there were opportunities opening up for us. Sometimes coming off the bench gives you an opportunity to put into practice what you’ve been watching. We knew it was always going to be a tough game and the reinforcements from the bench could make a big difference. We’re all one team here and we were all pleased to be able to give the team a much-needed lift when we came off the bench. “It was a must win for us, we all knew how important that game was. Worcester are no slouches in this league. Yes they’ve just come back up, but they’re a team really pushing on, taking scalps of sides like Saints already this season. We knew that, no matter how it looked, we had to get a win. Firstly to get us up that league table, but also going into this weekend we really needed a bit of confidence.” Wasps now go into this weekend’s game with a bit of wind in their sails. Up into sixth in the Aviva Premiership table, the men in black and gold return to the European Champions Cup this Sunday, where they sit top of their pool. With the prospect of three-time European champions Toulon in their own back yard, Thompson says the team go into the game with confidence. “This is now the biggest game the club has had in a few years. Toulon away, similar to last season, it’s going to be a huge game. We’ve got some more experience than last year, and a little more confidence that we can do a good job, so hopefully we go out there a little wiser than we were last time. I’m not sure how the table works out mathematically but a win would put us right on the front foot in terms of qualification to the knockout stages. That’s obviously easier said than done against a side like Toulon, but we need to have real belief that we can get a result and focus on getting the performance right. “When the groups were picked, not many people gave us much chance of progressing, but we were quietly confident. The same applies this weekend. Not many people are talking about us going to the European champions and bringing home a win but we’re always confident in our ability. This team has so much talent and now we are finding out about how we play as a group. We can be at our best when we’re underdogs and we’re definitely not favourites this weekend!” Wasps beat Toulon 32-6 in the first leg at the Ricoh Arena, but Thompson maintains that result will make little difference this Sunday. “As far as the result at the Ricoh Arena goes, I’m not sure they’ll look into that too much. We’ll take bags of confidence from it, but it’s been and gone now and going over there is totally different.” England name their training squad ahead of the RBS 6 Nations this Wednesday and never has it been more apparent that games like this weekend’s clash with the European Champions can help to propel a player’s name into the international arena. “We have loads of players in this team who are looking to push on and play for their country, but we all know that to put yourself in the shop window for international selection you have to play well for your club and you have to perform in the big games. You don’t get much bigger than Toulon away in the Champions Cup and it’s a great opportunity for us to show how good we can be if we get the performance right for 80 mimnutes.” Since joining Wasps, Thompson has clearly benefited from some of those players who are pushing for international recognition, as well as a number of guys who have operated at the top-level of the game for a number of years. Thompson finds himself in a back row pool that includes some of the most highly-rated flankers in the game and he says he has taken huge strides since joining the club in 2013. “I’ve been able to develop my all-round game since joining Wasps. I’ve been working hard with Brad [Davis] on my defence, with Lee [Blackett] on my attack and on the breakdown with Titts [Andy Titterell]. I’ve got loads of learning in me and I’m trying to use all the time we have to keep getting better. “We have a brilliant back row group here. Just look at Jonesy [Sam Jones] at the weekend, he absolutely killed all the stats and was absolutely outstanding. You’ve got Nathan Hughes who has been one of the standout players in Europe, Hask [James Haskell] who is a workhorse and has top-level international experience, George Smith who’s got 111 caps for Australia. Then you’ve got the young lads like Alex Rieder and Thomas Young, so everyone is constantly pushing each other and you can only get better as a player and I’m trying to make the most of that.”