Wasps supremo Dai Young is confident star signing Lima Sopoaga will begin to shine once the club overcome injuries and a period of transition.
Sopoaga arrived from the Highlanders in September with a huge reputation after pushing Beauden Barrett and Damian McKenzie for a place in the New Zealand team.
However, the 27-year-old has failed to make the anticipated impact for a Wasps side that has suffered constant upheaval through injuries, the shock of Christian Wade’s defection to NFL and speculation around the futures of big names Elliot Daly and Nathan Hughes.
Young, below, told TRP: “We always knew Lima would take a bit of time to settle in and you have to feel a bit sorry for him because he’s been trying to settle with half the team he expected to be around him being unavailable.
“Last season our attacking prowess was pretty special with Dan Robson, Jimmy Gopperth, Willie Le Roux and Wadey around Danny Cipriani, but we’ve had pretty much none of them playing so it’s been hard to replicate that.
“That’s put more pressure on Lima but we know he’s a quality player and we also know that, like most players from the Southern Hemisphere, you’re probably not going to get the best out of them in their first season in England.
“He’s shown glimpses and with some of those more experienced, recognised players around him, he’s going to grow. They’ll take the pressure off and hopefully he’ll go from strength-to-strength, which we’re confident he will.”
With top players such as Daly (Saracens), Hughes (Bristol) and Jake Cooper-Woolley (Sale) being linked with moves away from the club, Young admits this is one of the most challenging periods of his nine-year tenure as director of rugby.
“The Daly thing is in discussion at the minute and that’s the only surprise we didn’t see coming. It will probably be resolved this week,” Young said.
“At some point we were going to hit a bump in the road because since coming to Coventry we’ve been on an upwards curve, but we’re certainly going through a bad patch and it’s how you respond to it that matters.
“The reality is there are people leaving this club, just the same as people are leaving other clubs – that’s part and parcel of professional sport and we’re pretty confident that for the players we will lose, we are going to recruit accordingly.”
However, Young concedes that recruitment process is being complicated by a tightly-bunched Premiership table which is tempting more clubs to go for broke in the transfer market following a £230m cash injection from CVC.
He explained: “There are five or six clubs paying up to the salary cap, which means we can’t pay our players much more, but there are six clubs under the cap who are now making big offers which will tempt players.
“From what I see, clubs that haven’t traditionally spent to the cap are doing so now and with the league being so close, everyone is worried and that’s spooked a lot of teams into making sure they use the new money to reach the cap.
“This time next year we’ll probably all be in the same boat so we’ll see a real equalisation of talent across the whole Premiership.”
Young has revealed he is starting to review the make-up of his coaching staff, with a possible addition to be made in the forwards operation after last summer’s intended recruitment of scrum specialist Danny Wilson failed.
Young added: “Danny going to Scotland was a blow and it was too late in the day to make other calls. We’ll review the structure and if we feel we need to supplement it, that’s what we’ll do.
“Anything that could go wrong has gone wrong this season, but that’s life and we’ll come through this period of evolution stronger.”