The first event of significant influence leading to the Toulouse victory was at home to Cardiff where we had real expectation of a big day and a convincing win. I believe our current DOR Dia Young was an apsiring player in the Cardiff line. However we were having a good season, a young side improving week on week, a large crowd was expected and this was the first disappointment. Yes, crowds do play their part and impact on the team performance. As a quick aside do not think too much about getting along to Adams Park, just get along. It may be more difficult to get out of than Colditz but just get along, you being there will make a difference.
Now Cardiff used all the gamesmanship possible in this game and duly ran out winners. We were naive and inexperience in Europe and simply did not have the nouse to deal with the tactical expertise on the day. I still feel a bigger crowd, more atmosphere would have taken us through this game. However we lost and approached the next game on the basis of a "we should have won that one" mind set.....again a BIG mistake.
We travelled to Munster still with the previous, completely irrelevant game, high in our mind set. We had a team full of outrageous skill and pace ....but nonetheless young and inexperienced. We'll show 'em what we can do. The Irish, Munster are in my experience the very best at setting up teams for failure and we, in our wonderful naive world fell hook line and sinker into the trap.....this by the way is competely my fault and my, as coach, responsibility, I will come onto this shortly.......if a team does not perform it is the coach who is accountable.
The Munster fans, in the hotel, down the local shop, driving the coach....oh they did a job on us. Telling us how exciting a team we were, how our style and ambition was so good to see.....good luck to you lads, it's just great you even turn up to give us a chance to play against you....thank you so much. Now it was not quite as direct as that, but that was the message and like a bunch of divots we took it all on board
We kick off. The grass is knee high, the wind is blowing hard and rain is lashing down and we attempt to run the ball around. No matter how hard we try to change the tactics, the mind set has been moulded hard into our skulls and that little voice at the back of of heads keeps popping up....just try that double miss pass loop once more....it might just work this time.
We troop back into the changing rooms at the end of the game, completely smashed in terms of numbers and more importantly understanding. I think at this moment if anyone would have come up to me and said what is a competely accurate statement ...."Rob, remember you learn much more in defeat".... they would no longer be on planet earth.
In the changing room heads were down and in typical style up pops Lawrence to get things into perspective and lift the lads....Lawrence, although a young Skipper had been brilliant...however as I say sometimes things are different and the coach needs to accept it is he who is accountable, responsible and this moment was too much to permit a player, captain whatever to lead the recovery. I, for the first and only time I think, told Lawrence to take a seat and tried to articulate what we had just experienced, the reality, home truths and the challenges ahead..... It was a painful, emotional but in the end an effective few minutes in the life of Wasps......Mellie, I remember nodded in agreement.
Training at Sudbury the following week was conducted in silence. This was not by instruction, it just happened, it was reflection, by all. A week long period to take on board we had been a bunch of pillocks and mentally make the adjustments that were required. On reflection I think during this week many of this young squad transformed into professional sportsmen and I think this was the moment we won the league.
The rest is history or was history. However, I should just add Chris Wright had been advised to place a spread bet wager on Toulouse to win by 15 plus points by no other than our current chairman Mark Rigby. Toulouse were full of house names an incredible force in European rugby. Every try we scored cost Chris Wright some 5k ...ask Riggers, he will know the detail....but who cares, we stuffed 'em. YES.