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Wasps Up for Big Game
4 April 2004, 1:45 am
Wasps sent their general, Warren Gatland, and his first lieutenant, Lawrence Dallaglio, to the ERC Press Conference at City West Hotel in Saggart, Dublin on Thursday afternoon.
Wasps sent their general, Warren Gatland, and his first lieutenant, Lawrence Dallaglio, to the ERC Press Conference at City West Hotel in Saggart, Dublin on Thursday afternoon.

Obviously, these two men work well together and they were forthcoming and straight to the point in their opinions ahead of their Heineken Cup semi-final against Munster at Lansdowne Road on Sunday.

LAWRENCE DALLAGLIO:

The Heineken Cup semi-final is a big stage. Is it comparable to an international?

"Oh, very much so. I think this stage of the competition allows you to take the club game, the provincial game onto an international stage.

"If you look at the quality of the players on both teams, they are packed full of internationals. We are playing in an international stadium and we have a sell-out capacity crowd.

"Yeah, it will be a great day for both sets of supporters, both set of players and everybody associated with both rugby teams. Hopefully, we will have a match that will fit the occasion".

Giant second row Simon Shaw has been a revelation this season. How big a player has he been? How serious was his rib injury?

"His record speaks for itself. Other players would have taken the disappointment of being omitted from the England World Cup squad very bitterly, but, as soon as he heard the news he was straight on the phone to Warren and was very much part of the plans of Wasps going forward this season.

"He has been short-listed in the nominations for the Players Players of the Year over in England. He is the only English-qualified player to be on that short list and I think that is a reflection of how the players regard him in England.

"He has fractured his cheekbone and broken his nose already this season. So, I'm sure the bruising to his ribs won't be too much of a problem to him".

It is a long hard season and there is always a question of tiredness creeping in. Why have Wasps been able to get stronger as the season progresses in the last two seasons?

"The coaches at Wasps realise that in an eleven month season, it is about quality rather than quantity. That goes for training as well as playing. We look at players very individually, very specifically.

"Talking to my colleagues in the Premiership, we have probably had more time off than any other club. We don't like to confuse days with too many meetings because it is a long season and you have to stay fresh, particularly as you get towards this stage of the season.

"Life in London helps, as well. There is a natural distraction away from rugby which, perhaps, you don't experience playing in other places, certainly around England".

Even though the game is in Lansdowne Road, do you see it as a 50-50 game?

"It is clearly a huge challenge for us. We are playing away from home. I know we are in Ireland, but it is a different environment for Munster, even if the majority of their players are use to playing at Lansdowne Road.

"This competition is about challenging you in every way. We have had some very tough games away from home already in the competition down in Wales (Celtic Warriors) and the South of France (Perpignan).

"Although we don't have as much experience as Munster in this competition, we do have an enormous amount of experience in our team. You can see the international experience with the likes of Rob Howley and Craig Dowd.

"We have a huge amount of respect for Munster. We have watched their progress in the competition. I watched them play in Lille against Stade in the semi-final a few years ago and they were unfortunate that day".

WARREN GATLAND:

Simon Shaw was Wasps only injury doubt. Was it a serious concern?

"You don't get them much tougher than Simon. At times, he will train on injuries. You have got to tell him to bugger off and take a rest really.

"He puts his body on the line and that is why he has so much respect within the squad. Obviously, he doesn't have the same respect from Clive Woodward.

You have another player (Marc van Gisbergen) on that list, your full back. He is obviously playing quite well as well?

"Yeah, he has probably been one of the finds of the team. We were looking for him originally as a replacement for Alex King at ten. He came from the same province as me in Waikato. He was the number three ten (out-half) out there.

"We brought him across pretty cheaply at the time. He wasn't professional. He was working 40 hours a week and on a small retainer at Waikato. We realised at the time he was a good footballer. We asked him to play at full back and he has taken his chances there.

"He has turned out to be a fantastic find. Having had the experience at playing ten has been an advantage for him. He has put on seven kilogrammes since he has been here as a professional.

"He has trained hard. He is quick. He has got great footwork and he is a fantastic goal-kicker as well.

"I know Wayne Smith, a few weeks ago, New Zealand are very interested in trying to get him back involved in their set-up. I think England will show some interest in him when he will become qualified".

How does Gatland compare the Heineken Cup to the Super 12 tournament in the southern hemisphere?

"I think Wayne Smith and Steven Hansen, involved over here, realise that the northern hemisphere is a different game to the Super 12, in terms of how physical it is and the competition at the breakdown.

"It is more like Test match rugby, rather than the Super 12 which is a bit more free-flowing, not so many numbers at the breakdown and I think that they have recognised that there are a number of players that they would like to get back to New Zealand, like (Bruce) Reihana, Andrew Blowers and Marc as well".

What are your thoughts on the other semi-final between Toulouse and Biarritz?

"We were very impressed with Biarritz against Llanelli. They played extremely well. They have beaten Toulouse this year and they will fancy their chances in Bordeaux.

"At times, Toulouse are only in third or fourth gear and they turn it on when they have to. They are at the business end of the competition. It's going to be a very exciting game".

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