#360rugby: Wasps loving Coventry, Sarries using brains

Martyn Thomas 17:03 05/01/2015
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Flying high: Wasps have greatly increased their match attendance number since moving to Coventry's Ricoh Arena.

It was a big weekend in European rugby as Wasps continued their fine form in Coventry, Saracens trialled a new concussion programme and Clermont Auvergne returned to the summit of the Top 14. Here are five things we learned from the action.

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Wasps might just be creating a lasting buzz in Coventry

The gate for Wasps’ 41-16 demolition of Sale may have been considerably smaller than for their first game in Coventry, but signs are the club are beginning to make waves in their new home.

Given the publicity generated by their move to the Ricoh Arena, Sunday’s attendance was always going to be more instructive than that against London Irish a fortnight ago.

And that 15,343 turned up should be highly encouraging for the Wasps hierarchy, especially as that is around 10,000 more than they were getting at Adams Park. 

Victory on the pitch was Wasps’ third in a row and lifted them into the top four, form that should ensure those new fans keep coming back, and.

In two games at the Ricoh Arena Dai Young’s men have scored 89 points. Continue at that pace and the stadium will be full week in, week out.

Saracens are taking issue of concussion extremely seriously

In a bid to safeguard their players from the effects of concussion, Saracens have adopted technology used in the NFL to monitor knocks they may suffer on the field of play.

The club’s backs and back-row forwards donned the equipment – effectively sensors tapped to the back of their ears – for the first time during their 22-6 win over London Irish at Allianz Park.

It is very much early days for the programme, with data collected at the end of the game, but it is hoped that the sensors will produce real-time data by the end of the season, allowing medical staff to make more informed decisions on whether players can continue.

Edward Griffiths, chief executive, said: “We don’t want to meet our players in 20 or 25 years’ time, to find them suffering from dementia or any similar condition, and to reflect we suspected something was going on but we didn’t really know. We want to know.”

Tuilagi’s injury problems open Six Nations door for Burrell

Speaking after Leicester secured a highly impressive 17-8 victory over Bath, Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill confirmed that Manu Tuilagi would not be fit for the start of the Six Nations.

Tuilagi has been out since October with a groin strain, and left a glaring hole in Stuart Lancaster’s plans during the autumn internationals.

Bath’s aspirations at Welford Road, meanwhile, were hindered as their own England midfielder, Kyle Eastmond, limped off early while Sam Burgess struggled to assert himself on proceedings.

With England kicking off their campaign against Wales at the Millennium Stadium on February 6, Lancaster may well decide to take a safety first approach.

The England coach will hope Brad Barritt recovers from his own injury troubles in time, but Northampton centre Luther Burrell continues to put himself in the frame.

Burrell turned in a try-scoring performance on Friday night as Saints beat Newcastle 39-31 on Friday night and would certainly bring physicality to the England back line.

Pro12 is going to go down to the wire

The first half of the season may have been dominated by Glasgow and the Ospreys but heading into the new year there are still at least five teams with designs on the Pro12 title.

Bar Treviso, last weekend saw no team who had been victorious in the previous round win again as the sides at the top concertinaed further.

Five points separate the top five teams with 10 games to go, while Connacht are just three further back and Scarlets within four of the Irish province.

The Scarlets enjoyed an encouraging win over the Ospreys on Saturday that keeps their hopes of a top four finish alive, something captain Scott Williams is adamant they can achieve.

If they are to do so they will need Williams and Bath-bound fly-half Rhys Priestland to display the kind of form that saw them carve open the Ospreys defence at the Parc y Scarlets.

Regardless of whether they can maintain do that, the second half of the Pro12 promises to be one to keep an eye on.

Clermont coming to the boil at the right time in France

2010 Top 14 champions Clermont Auvergne returned to the Top 14 summit for the first time since August thanks to a comfortable win over Toulouse at home.

In truth it was a result that was in little doubt considering the visitors have not won in Clermont-Ferrand since 2002. Yet it could yet have great significance as it took the hosts back to the top of the table, as both Toulon and Stade Francais lost.

Clermont’s victory was powered by their French international three-quarters, as Aurelien Rougerie and Wesley Fofana each scored tries, while No10 Camille Lopez kicked 14 points.

That form should bode well not only for Clermont, but also Les Bleus as they look to make an impression on the Six Nations next month.

Referees are increasingly getting a hard time from both players and fans, so it is refreshing to hear them giving a bit back.

Welsh referee Nigel Owens recently told Harlequins hooker Dave Ward “I’m straighter” than one feed into a scrum, and his country Ian Davies also got in on the act. 

Having awarded a penalty against a sheepish Adam Jones, the ref urged the Cardiff Blues prop not to give him “those puppy dog eyes”. This could turn into a competition.

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