But is it ? There is some hope, there is a little expectation, there is a certain cautious optimism for a brighter future, yet is it well founded? The deal to sell the club has still to be completed, uncertainty still exists. A hint of nervousness fills the air, the club have suffered a serious dose of realism over the past year and they are not out of the woods yet. After all, they only survived relegation on the last day of the season, so it is not surprising that worried faces remain.
But hey, come on, this is the new season. If there is a time to look forward, this is it. Last season is now a distant memory. Injured players have returned to fitness, new players have come in, vastly superior to those that have left the club and so the supporters should have much more to feel excited about than recent years. Out with the old, in with the new. There is even a new shirt supplier so the famous black and gold will be seen in a new light.
And so as the curtain rises on the new Aviva Premiership season tomorrow at Twickenham, as Wasps kick off the new season against their arch rivals and defending champions Harlequins, what can we really expect from Wasps?
Well, there is the buzz of youth, a real excitement that last year’s crop of star perfomers, Joe Launchbury, Billy Vunipola, Elliot Daly and the dazzling Christian Wade, all 21 and under, continue their rapid rise. Last year was a tough debut season for them all, giving it their all but in a struggling team in difficult circumstances. Yet they all came through, their burgeoning schoolboy reputations enhanced in the brutal unforgiving world of premiership rugby.
There has also been the influx of the Welsh, Wasps’ Welsh coach Dai Young understandably turning to the land of his fathers, players he knows and trusts, and three have joined the ranks over the summer. The most notable of these is Stephen Jones, bringing with him a wealth of experience from over 100 caps for Wales and indeed he is the most capped Welshman in history.
There has also been a further injection of international talent, including 2 Italians and a South African, the explosive Ashley Johnson being the pick who offers arguably the most excitement, if his you tube clips can be relied upon. He could be some player.
But it is the two returning former Wasps’ heroes who really catch the eye, Tom Palmer who returns from Stade Francais, but most of all, James Haskell, who returns from his nomadic travels developing his game in France, Japan and New Zealand. Haskell is a true Wasp in every sense, a product of the youth academy and given his opportunity at a very young age. When he joined the senior ranks of the club he learned his art from playing alongside the likes of Lawrence Dallaglio and Joe Worsley in the back row, and there can be no better tutors. He played with a verve, a passion and a swashbuckling exuberance. He was always fiercely committed and a real winner, and his presence has been sorely missed in the three years that he has been gone. It can only be hoped that his return will have a galvanising affect on the morale of the side.
So there is much to look forward to. Furthermore, if some of the more attritional rugby that the team played last year gives way to some more expansive, quick and dynamic play, then Wasps could become a force again. But it is going to take time.
The opening match could not be more difficult. Harlequins are the champions, they have a strong settled side, developed over many years and now with a strong winning culture and mentality. They will quite rightly start as strong favourites and few will bet against them collecting a comfortable opening day victory. But last year Wasps did upset the applecart by defeating the previous season’s champions, Saracens, in the opening day double header, so all is not lost.
But the team will not be judged on what happens tomorrow, or the following saturday, or the one after that. It is a long season, played out over nine months, yet the squad seem far better equipped than in recent years to take on the battles that lie ahead. If some of the young starlets come of age and the more experienced players perform to their potential, then a few feathers will be ruffled, a few defences will be breached, a few tries will be scored and a few victories achieved, and then maybe this will be considered the dawning of a new era.