Looking back: Head to Head with Tom Varndell

After the Tigers V Wasps grudge match this weekend we have taken the chance to look back at an interview carried before the season started with Wasp’s Tom Varndell. Tom came in for a heavy torrent of abuse at the game from his old club and after reading this interview i would like to this some of you may re-consider your opinion on him. I for one am a tiger to my core but can’t help to think that on many occasions a lot of our ex players come back to a huge amount of stick.

Varndell shows his blistering pace

Tom Varndell has always been known as one of the characters of English rugby. Sadly, his career has been blighted by injury thus far, but Tom is back and ready to take on the Aviva Premiership for London Wasps in the 2011-2012 season.

Tori Chipp interviews Tom Varndell

Tori Chipp (TC): How do you think the RWC will affect the Premiership table this year?

Tom Varndell (TV): Obviously there are some really big names missing across the Premiership. Here at Wasps, we aren’t missing too many players and we have Saracens and Tigers first up, so it is a good chance for us I think. Obviously, I hope it means that Premiership rugby doesn’t suffer, but it does give some teams opportunities.

TC: Clearly you think that some great players have been selected for England, but who do you think maybe should have been in the mix that wasn’t?

TV: Obviously, I will always hope that I’m selected, and it’s always disappointing not to be. But realistically, I had a season that was hit hard by injury.

I know a lot of people were surprised not to see Alex Goode in there, but he’s not ready. He is a great player, just not ready. Again, it’s the same with Owen Farrell. He’s very young and wasn’t even in the starting 15 at Saracens at the beginning of last season and one season really isn’t enough. I think Martin Johnson has made the right decisions so far and I think the 45 men he has selected have the best chance of doing well out there. He is an intelligent man and knows his rugby, so who better to trust.

TC: How are Wasps new boys fitting in?

TV: There are only about 20 of us here at the moment in pre-season, but the new lads are fitting in very well it seems. We have a really good new squad, a very young squad and it’s all actually pretty cool.

TC: You have Tigers and Saracens first up next season, how are you feeling about that?

TV: Surprisingly good actually. It kind of kick starts your season straight away and gets them out of the way. I mean they were the two best sides last season.

TC: Who’s face are you missing the most around the place at the moment?

TV: Well obviously a lot of the boys such as Joe Worsley, Joe Simpson and Simon Shaw. I think they’re the players that if they do go to the World Cup will be sorely missed. Joe Simpson obviously got player of the season last year and is on fantastic form. We are very lucky this year, we have a very tight squad, a lot tighter than the last two years I’ve been here and that can only be good. Obviously, I wish everyone who moved away at the end of last season the best, but we have to build with what we have now and I’m very happy about that.

TC: So, who are the boys that you really get on with best at Tigers…I mean…?

 TV: Errrrrr woops, you mean Wasps?

TC: Ha! Yes, sorry, force of habit I guess. Who are your best buddies at Wasps?

TV: This probably sounds like a real cliché, but I really do get along with everyone here. Especially this year, even the new boys are slipping in very well. I think my best friends would have to be the people I have known the longest. Tom Rees I’ve known for years. Obviously, others in my changing room like Joe Hart, Richard Haughton who I’ve played sevens with, but in general everyone does get on really well, so it’s a nice atmosphere.

TC: What can we expect from you for this season and from the club?

TV: On a personal note, I really want to stay injury free. Last season saw a lot of time off the pitch for me, which is a shame, and so I would love to get back playing as regularly as possible. I mean last year before my injury, I was on course to be one of the top try scorers in the Aviva Premiership and still finished the season top at Wasps. With that would hopefully come pushing for a place in the England squad post World Cup. Our main aim as a club this season is going to be to break into the top four, which we really do desperately need.

TC: What are your thoughts on Wasps’ new Director of Rugby, Dai Young?

TV: Really excited to be honest. We have had two pretty tough and awkward years, but now we have everything we need in place to move forward and it really excites me. Having someone like Dai in charge is really important. He’s a big, strong character. He is a proven winner, knows how to win and wants to pass that on. That alone is more than enough to get the fire started.

TC: Now Tom, this is the big question that everyone has been asking me to ask you….Who is quicker, you or Christian Wade?

TV: Ohhh that’s a cheeky one! I’ve actually been his mentor for the past season for his transition from academy to first team player and we get on really well. But I think I’d still put him in his box, I think I’d get him still!

TC: So then, this 100m in less than 11 seconds at Tigers, please explain to everyone the truth in the tale.

TV: Yeah, at Tigers, I did 100m on grass in socks in 10.8 seconds!!! But I’ve never run on a track properly. Still think I would have Wade though as he only has little legs! It was a long time ago that record though, I’m a bit heavier now with more muscle mass. But rugby running is different anyway as you try to avoid getting smashed.

TC: What are you looking at England wise in the future; sevens, 15s?

TV: I have never really been a sevens player. I did it during my second year as an international player, but only between tours. I’ve been pushed into the sevens category even though I’ve never actually been a dedicated full-time sevens player. I think it’s great and I enjoy it during pre-season to get me back into the feeling for the season ahead. Sevens is not for me though, I want to be a 15s player. I am a 15s player. I’m the size now for the 15s game, it’s a very different body type and few can play both well. The full game nowadays is pretty brutal and you need to be very strong, not just fast.

TC: Now this is going to be a tricky question. How is the difference between Wasps and Tigers? Can you tell us a little bit about life on the inside?

TV: Leicester for me was amazing. To have them as my first club from school was a dream come true. I was devastated to leave, I was 23 years old, I had a few injuries and I wasn’t getting picked. I needed to play rugby at that age. In order to further my career, I had to leave. I took the decision and spoke to the powers involved and said I have been here for five, nearly six, years and it’s time for me to move on. Then I went to Wasps and thought it would all be the same. But it’s not, it’s very different. It’s a little more relaxed; it’s a lot more player lead. Wasps has been a great club for me and I have really been able to challenge myself here. Injury has held me back a little, but I can’t take anything away from what Wasps have given me.

I think a lot of Tigers fans sadly thought I’d turned my back on the club, or at least that was how it was reported. The season after I left, I came back to Welford Road with Wasps and was booed, it did really upset me. Leicester is a great club and I have no ill feeling towards anyone there. I owe them a lot. Without them, I would not have played for England, I wouldn’t have got my chance, and I’m really grateful for that. I’m full of admiration for the club, they have achieved great things. Richard Cockerill has done a fantastic job and I genuinely hope that Tigers can do as well as we do next season.

TC: Well, I certainly won’t be booing you. I’ll get down onto the terrace and sort them out for you!

TC: Who has the worst banter at Wasps?

TV: It’s easily Joe Simpson. Worst banter ever!

TC: Have you picked any nicknames up along the way? I don’t want to ask this, but I have been told by the public. I think I already know the answer.

TV: Ha! I cannot say that! It’s far too rude, but it’s not been used in a long time. It’s not very polite to say to a lady!

TC: A person who shall remain nameless asked me to ask you!

TV: The cheeky bugger, I’ll get him back, don’t worry!

TC: Finally, who are the people you really admire in rugby and take inspiration from?

TV: Jeremy Guscott, when I was growing up. To be honest, there is no stand out person as I watch a lot of rugby and look to take a lot from the modern game, and from everyone I see, to improve my game.

Thanks Tom for taking time out to chat with me, you’ve been very honest and given a great perspective on some for the inner workings of club rugby.

 I, for one, can’t wait to see you back in an England shirt. It’s definitively when, not if! So readers, keep your eyes peeled for Tom this season, don’t blink though or you’ll miss him!

By Tori Chipp


Follow Tori Chipp on Twitter

Follow Tom Varndell on Twitter


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