Dai Young will officially start his seventh year in charge of Wasps this weekend during the newly re-branded Gallagher Premiership's opening round, in which the Coventry-based side will travel to neighbouring rivals, Worcester Warriors.
However, Young has enjoyed a far from ideal build-up to this opening fixture with the news earlier this week that key playmaker Jimmy Gopperth has been ruled out for up to nine months. In addition to this long-term layoff, frontrowers Jake Cooper-Woolley and TJ Harris are nursing matching bicep injuries and will not return for over a month after undergoing surgery.
"The Jake Cooper-Woolley one was the most unfortunate." Young said, "It was only his second training session back and it was pretty much non-contact. For him to take a direct blow in a grab session and tear his bicep is quite unheard of, but these things happen.
"Jimmy's [Gopperth] was pretty innocuous as well. It wasn't even in a tackle, just changing directions in the corner. He put his foot in the ground, felt a pop and that was it. We didn't expect it to be anything as serious as it was."
“There isn't a lot you can do about them really, you just have to get on with them.
"Jimmy's [injury] is the biggest blow purely because it's such a long time, potentially 9 months, hopefully nearer six but certainly no sooner."
When pressed as to whether he would consider bringing in a short-term signing to cover Gopperth's absence and the time it will take to induct soon-to-arrive All Black fly-half Lima Sopoaga, Young backed two of his summer signings to fill the gap, both of whom arrive from the Greene King IPA Championship.
“To be honest he [Gopperth] probably would have been more of a twelve for us than a ten this season anyway.
“That's why we brought Billy [Searle] in because he's obviously a quality ten and obviously a youngster that can learn a lot from Jimmy, who's spent a lot of time with him.
“We believe he can develop into that role and on Friday night he had a good performance. We're not expecting him to light up the Premiership after one game, that's a bit unrealistic. But we do feel he's a quality ten.
"We’ve got Rob Miller who can play ten for us, we’ve got Michael Le Bourgeois who also played there for Bedford so we feel we’re ok in that area pretty much.
"It’s a big blow for us, but it’s one of these things you have to get on with really."
"As we said, we're really pleased to have Lima on board and we're really looking forward to getting him out there. But we can't hide the fact that Jimmy is a massive blow for us.
"He's here sometime this week, which has always been the plan really. It's unlikely he'll feature this weekend but he'll be out on the park pretty soon really, whether that's this week or next week, time will tell.
"Obviously, they've both had a bit of a rest which is important, him and Brad [Shields].
"They've got to get used to our structures and our patterns but we don't envision too long [a wait] really. We always felt that he [Sopoaga] wouldn't be involved in the first game but he'll be close for the second and third game."
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Young also believes that the gap left at inside centre following Gopperth's injury will be filled by Springbok centre Juan de Jongh. The Wasps boss affirmed his trust in de Jongh's abilities when queried whether his move to twelve during pre-season was a direct result of Gopperth's untimely injury.
“He’s actually played more at twelve than he has thirteen," Young explained, "he has two-thirds of his caps for the Boks at twelve rather than thirteen. Also, with our twelves and thirteens, they change roles quite a bit.
"But he is a real strong defensive centre, a really good communicator, really organises the defence well and it’s a case with Elliot [Daly] as well. He’d like to see himself as a thirteen.
"He played a lot of thirteen for us last season, he’s also played a lot on the wing but I think moving forward he really wants to try and establish himself as a thirteen.
"We believe at this moment in time, that’s our best combination.
"Now, if Jimmy had been available perhaps things would have changed a little bit, but from our point of view looking at what we have at this moment in time, and Booj [Le Bourgeois] will certainly play because I think he will surprise people in the Premiership.
"Everyone knows what a quality player he was in the Championship but I think he’ll also surprise people in the Premiership as well.
Casting an eye towards Wasps' opposition this weekend, Young is expecting a game plan that may feel familiar to the likes of de Jongh and fellow South African international Ashley Johnson.
Young said: "We're expecting a real tough game, we're not expecting anything other than that.
"We played them twice last season and struggled twice against them, so we're very respectful of them and we know we're gonna have to play very well.
"They’re very physical up front and very direct, they don’t play much rugby in their own half.
"I think it’s very much a South African approach.
"A very strong kicking game, big kicking game, big press from their defence, very direct if they get into your half and they’ll take you on physically with a good set piece.
"So we know what we’re up against and if we give away as many penalties as we did on the weekend it could be a tough afternoon for us, especially if we give them field position and give them the opportunity to take us on physically."
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