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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 May, 2004, 16:26 GMT 17:26 UK
Why are Wasps so good?
By Bryn Palmer

Lawrence Dallaglio answers questions prior to the Heineken Cup final
Dallaglio is Wasps' figurehead
For the past 18 months Wasps have been the top side in England.

Now they can call themselves kings of Europe after winning the Heineken Cup.

Last year they won the Zurich Premiership and Parker Pen Challenge Cup, and have completed part one of a potentially greater double triumph.

So what is the Wasps way to success? BBC Sport highlights five areas which have propelled them into the elite.

WORK ETHIC

It may seem at odds with his iconic status in the game, but England captain Lawrence Dallaglio insists "there are no superstars" at Wasps.

"London is a very difficult atmosphere to try to create a successful rugby club," he explains. "It is something you have to work very hard to generate."

Dallaglio, who arrived in 1989, has seen the club move from Sudbury to Shepherds Bush and now Wycombe, but the core values of the amateur era remain.

"Everyone worked really hard," he recalled. "There was a real structure in the club with some very strong personalities." That is still very much the case.

PLAYER MANAGEMENT

After Northampton were routed 57-20 in their Premiership play-off, Saints coach Wayne Smith noted: "Wasps manage to get their big players playing very well."

Wasps wing Josh Lewsey
Josh Lewsey has been in top form
While some England World Cup players have lost form or fitness since returning from Australia, the Wasps contingent has remained firing on all cyclinders.

Coach Warren Gatland espouses a 'less is more' policy to training, with short, sharp sessions of high intensity and plenty of time off to stay mentally fresh.

Each player has a fitness and analysis programme tailored to his individual needs, ensuring, as Dallaglio puts it: "There are no excuses when we get on the field."

CONTINUITY

As London rivals Saracens embark on yet another radical summer overhaul of their playing squad, Wasps are content to make the odd signing here and there.

"Players come in and they want to play for the club and when they leave it is because they have achieved what they want," Dallaglio explains.

When Wasps make signings, they tend to be either experienced Test operators (Rob Howley, Craig Dowd) still full of vim and vigour or unheralded imports (Stuart Abbott, Mark van Gisbergen) who develop into Test-class performers.

But a hard core of players - Fraser Waters, Will Green, Paul Volley - typify the Wasps ethos, unsung heroes who put in the hard yards every week, rain or shine.

FITNESS

It is no coincidence that when other teams wilt as pitches become harder and the weather gets hotter, Wasps seem to get stronger as the season, and games, go on.

Wasps coach Warren Gatland
Gatland has raised the bar at Wasps
Witness the manner of their epic injury-time victory against Munster, and the extraordinary physical and mental demands of their defensive system.

"There is a lot of emotion and fury in our game, and if one or two players don't buy into that, we become vulnerable," Dallaglio explained.

Fortunately, to the enormous credit of fitness director Craig White and defence strategist Shaun Edwards, that vulnerability is rarely seen when it really matters.

LEADERSHIP

Gatland was seen as a risky appointment in some quarters after a turbulent reign as Ireland coach, but the New Zealander has proved an inspired director of rugby.

Nigel Melville delivered a league title in 1997 and two Cup wins in 1999 and 2000, but Gatland inherited a team bottom of the Premiership at the end of 2000.

Alongside rugby league legend Edwards, the pair have instilled new ideas, attitudes and standards in a squad whose talents have blossomed under him.

On the field, Dallaglio - with able support from the likes of Waters and Howley - remains the Wasps figurehead and a monumental influence.


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