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Page last updated at 08:17 GMT, Thursday, 4 September 2008 09:17 UK

Start of a new era at Wasps

By Phil Harlow

(clockwise) Lawrence Dallaglio, Tom Rees and Dominic Waldouck

He doesn't even play for the club anymore but Lawrence Dallaglio's name is almost impossible to escape as Wasps prepare for the defence of their Premiership crown.

Rarely have a club and a player been so utterly synonymous, and Wasps know they have to embark on a new era without their talisman and former captain after his retirement at the end of last season.

But the new generation of Wasps stars are confident the special culture Dallaglio helped to foster at the club will continue at Adams Park this season.

"You can't even try to replace players like Lawrence - guys like him don't come around very often," Wasps and England flanker Tom Rees told BBC Sport.

"I don't know what the club was like before he arrived but you could say it's been made in his image. The club and him have grown together - there's an attitude that's here and we've really got to hang onto it.

"As a young back-row player, I would watch him training and it made me realise that if I was to get anywhere near the team I would have to raise my standards to keep up with him.

Lawrence Dallaglio
Dallaglio was able to bow out in style at Twickenham last year
"The likes of myself, Danny Cipriani, Dominic Waldouck and James Haskell like to think that we've played with Lol and the other senior players long enough to have the attitude they brought to the game instilled in us."

Rees' roll call of young stars - all of whom are products of the club's hugely successful Academy - is a reminder that Wasps have a huge pool of exciting talent to draw on.

Waldouck, who has two seasons of first-team rugby under his belt at just 20 years of age, agreed with Rees' verdict.

"Wasps is an amazing club and bigger than any player," he told BBC Sport.

"It's hard to pinpoint exactly what the Wasps culture is, but it's certainly about having a winning mentality.

"There's a never-say-die attitude and standards in training and on the pitch are always incredibly high. We have to maintain that tradition of winning without Lawrence."

Even after the departure of Dallalglio, who could be seen on Monday in a shirt and tie walking to the club's offices in his new role as an associate director, and stalwart centre Fraser Waters, Wasps will certainly not lack for experience.

Phil Vickery, Simon Shaw, Josh Lewsey, Joe Worsley, Serge Betsen and Raphael Ibanez - Dallaglio's successor as captain - have nearly 400 Test caps between them.

The arrival of the 34-year-old Betsen caught many by surprise, but Rees expects the France veteran to prove he still has what it takes.

"We've raised a few eyebrows in the past by signing older players, but the club are very astute at recruiting people who are really going to add to the team," he said.

"From a rugby point of view, his pedigree is beyond reproach. In terms of his personality, he's shown that he's willing to work really hard even with all he's achieved in the game. He seems to have understood the attitude here and fitted right in.

"But doing wrestling with him in training was not an awful lot of fun..."

Despite his optimism for the new season, Rees is under no illusions about the size of the task in front of Wasps.

It's a case of how quickly we can get to grips with the fact that some of us are going to have to be shouldering a bit more responsibility

Wasps flanker Tom Rees
"I do think it will be more of a challenge for us to retain the trophy this year," he said.

"The club has been built around experienced players like Lawrence, Fraser and Alex King but we are starting to shift away as those guys move on.

"For us it's a case of how quickly we can get to grips with the fact that some of us are going to have to be shouldering a bit more responsibility.

"I want to go from being seen as a young guy with potential to being an established professional."

Waldouck stressed that Waters - who has left to join Treviso in Italy - would be missed just as much as Dallaglio after 10 years with Wasps.

"He's a massive loss," said Waldouck.

"He might not get a lot of headlines but he achieved a massive amount with the club and was very unlucky not to win more England caps.

"My responsibility, as well as the other centres at the club, is to take on the qualities and standards that he brought to the club and keep them going."

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see also
Cipriani targets October return
31 Aug 08 |  English
Wasps complete Mitchell signing
11 Aug 08 |  London Wasps
Wasps name Ibanez as new captain
04 Aug 08 |  London Wasps
France great Betsen joins Wasps
22 May 08 |  London Wasps
Waters to leave Wasps for Treviso
27 May 08 |  London Wasps
Dream ending for Dallaglio
31 May 08 |  Rugby Union
Haskell upbeat over Wasps future
04 Jun 08 |  London Wasps


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