By Paul Morgan, editor of Rugby World Magazine
First of all I would be delighted to hear from Saracens and Wasps fans. Is Wembley a good venue for rugby? I have my views but it is the fans who count!
Certainly this game was awful for the first 40 minutes and barely improved afterwards – the highlights being Saracens Matthew Rouse winning £250,000 at half-time by hitting the crossbar from 40 metres out and the second-half appearance of Gavin Henson.
Thank you so much Gavin for coming off the bench and livening up the afternoon.
Saracens coach Mark McCall was doing everything he could to play down Henson’s part after the game, after the match. He would, of course, but it is ridiculous to play this prodigiously talented player away from a ‘decision-making role’, as McCall has started to do. Let’s hope he can recognise how good Henson is and if not the Welshman is at the wrong club.
Henson’s either good enough to play 10, 12 or 15 or he’s not. I have never heard of an injured player being eased back in my not giving him too many decisions to make. How does that work? He may lack match fitness but how will his decision-making improved if he is not allowed to make any. Trust me, Mark – Henson is the real deal.
All Henson missed was one horrific season when everyone kicked the ball and sent us to sleep. On this evidence he’s good enough to play any of them but I would slot him in at 10 – that is where Saracens need him the most. And who better for Owen Farrell, who has bags of potential, to learn from that a player like Henson?
At Wembley, Wasps continued their excellent form of late and would have won if they’d had anything bearing any resemblance to a lineout, especially in the first half.
Three times their continuity of possession earned them penalties in and around the halfway line, all out of Dave Walder’s range, and each time Walder dutifully drilled Wasps into the Saracens 22. Each time Wasps failed with the lineout, one of them hitting Marty Veale in the midrift.
They have lost hookers Rob Webber and Joe Ward (in the warm-up) to injury so any team who loses their two first-choices in any position will struggle, especially when they were up against a lineout run by the master of the art, Steve Borthwick, who was aided and abetted by Ernst Jourbert.
It would be ridiculous to suggest that Henson performed any more than a cameo in his 29 minutes on the field, but what was also clear is that he has got his hunger for rugby back and could easily make an impact on the highest stage.
I have interviewed him many times but I have never seen him so relaxed and at ease with himself. Saracens’ may just have pulled off a masterstroke by convincing him to sign – but play him and play him where he can make a difference, NOT at 13!
The first-half was the worst 40 minutes I have seen this season, but the second was far better.
Farrell would certainly have learnt a lot was hunted down by Serge Betsen, Joe Worsley and Andy Powell and the sooner Saracens take Henson out of cotton wool and hand him the No 10 jersey the better for the club.
In the end the game was won by one of the most under-rated players in the Aviva Premiership, Andy Saull. Memo to Martin Johnson: This guy could be your answer for the Six Nations. Not against Wales of course when Johnson will move Lewis Moody to six (due to the injury to Tom Croft) and bring Hendre Fourie into the 7 shirt. But against Italy give Saull his chance to show you that you have a world-class player in the making.
Saracens (3) 13
Try: Saull Cons: Farrell Pens: Farrell 2
Wasps (0) 6
Pens: Walder 2
Saracens: Wyles; Strettle, Tagicakibau, Barritt, Short; Farrell, de Kock; Carstens, Brits, Nieto; Borthwick (capt), Vyvyan; Brown, Melck, Joubert.
Replacements: George, Gill, du Plessis, Smith, Saull, Wigglesworth, Henson, Goode.
Wasps: van Gisbergen; Varndell, Jacobs (capt), Kefu, Lemi; Walder, Simpson; Taulafo, Lindsay, Broster, Shaw, Cannon, Worsley, Betsen Tchoua, Powell.
Replacements: Hobson, Payne, Baker, Veale, Jones, Berry, Jewell, Haughton.
Referee: Tim Wrigglesworth (RFU).