After a season in which 22-year-old Wasps flyer Christian Wade was named LV= Young Player of the Year, RPA Young Player of the Year and RPA Player of the Year whilst also finishing joint top try-scorer in the Premiership having scored 12 tries in 20 appearances, Wade it would seem could be forgiven for kicking back and putting his feet up this summer. Instead he is more determined than ever to make his mark on the international stage as he turns out for Stuart Lancaster’s England side.
Let’s not forget just how much the young wing has achieved this season, only Jonny Wilkinson before him has achieved the RPA player and young player of the year awards, although Wilkinson had to wait 4 years to do the double. This is an award voted for by his peers which shows the high esteem fellow players hold the youngster in. It is an even more impressive achievement given that Wasps only finished 8th this season (although that was more to do with their defence than attack).
Wade admitted to being “shocked and humbled” when picking up his awards last night admitting that he hadn’t known beforehand that he was the only player in the awards history to have received both awards in the same season. He said “When it is the players who you play week-in, week-out it makes it that more special. It is the greatest feeling to have the respect of your peers. Looking at the quality of the nominees in both awards I didn’t expect to win and I am thankful to come out on top.”
After picking up his award Wade’s attention instantly returned to England’s game against the Barbarians on Sunday in a re-match of the fixture last year that saw him score in an England shirt before racking up a hat-trick in the following fixture against the Southern Barbarians. Whereas last year Wade was on the peripherals of the England squad as they toured South Africa, this time around he is firmly at the front of Head Coach Stuart Lancaster’s plans.
Lancaster last night described the need to add an “X-Factor” to England’s back division with recent incumbents having failed to live up to previous billings. Attack coach Mike Catt added “You play to your team’s strengths. If that means driving teams to death, we drive teams to death but one of our strengths is the speed and X-Factor in those wide channels so we need to go there,” said Catt.
“Christian Wade has been exceptional all season. This is a good opportunity for him to say: ’I have matured as a player’ and put his hand up to be selected for the November Tests. Going into the 2015 World Cup we need to have two players in each position who are capable of playing international rugby and this tour is about finding out whether these guys can perform and it is a great opportunity.”
It’s fair to say that in the last couple of years whilst England for the most part have remained solid as a unit, they have failed to sparkle on more than the odd occasion which is clearly a growing concern for the coaching team in the build up to the 2015 World Cup on home soil. Whilst the likes of Chris Ashton seem to have cooled off on the hot try scoring form that propelled him to the head of the England set-up, Wade us building up a head of steam himself that could see him become a huge part of this summers tour of Argentina.
Catt is only too aware of the potential in Wade and has stated that he wants to see at least two players competing in each position and wants to see Wade battling for a starting spot. “Christian has been exceptional and the aim of this tour is to ensure that we have two options in every position in the build up to the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England. Our message to the guys is: why not oust players by performing on this tour?”
Wade is also looking ahead to next season for both club and country admitting to being particularly excited by the move of Stephen Jones to backs coach at Wasps believing the Wales’ most capped player will help to make him even better next year. “It is going to be really exciting to have Stephen in charge of the backs. He brought his knowledge to the club and worked this season with Shane and put his own ideas into drills. It gave us a hint of what we will be experiencing next season.
“It is all great stuff and I am really looking forward to working with Stephen because it’s going to be great fun. He has seen us in action on the pitch and knows how each person works and that will help him get the best out of everyone.” If this season is anything to go by then it will certainly not harm Wade’s progress both on and off the field having the influence on Jones around him.
For such an exceptionally talented 22-year-old Wade appears to be remaining well grounded despite the obvious trappings of success. If he can continue to keep his head down and not slip into some of the pit-falls that has seen the form of some before him slip down the pecking order then he could be a hugely important member of the England squad in the World Cup.
It is with great anticipation we will watch Wade stride out in Argentina this summer were hopefully he can make a lasting mark on Lancaster…