By Tom Jenkins
Dai Young has found an ally in Dragons director of rugby Dean Ryan following Young’s removal from front line duties at Wasps.
Ryan – a former captain of Wasps before he went into coaching – was surprised to learn that his old club had made the switch, with backs coach Lee Blackett stepping into Young’s shoes on an interim basis.
Former Wales skipper Young has been in charge at Wasps since 2011 and has overseen both their controversial move to Coventry as well as a cost-cutting era that has resulted in an exodus of key players.
“”I’m surprised,” said Ryan, who made 73 appearances for Wasps when they were based in London, before their relocation to the Midlands.
“I am always disappointed if a director of rugby is moved on because I know how difficult it is to stay in that space.
“I’ve been around long enough to remember when Dai brought them away from relegation in really tough times and there were some good times when they were 10 minutes away from winning a final.”
“I don’t think that it’s news that it has been a difficult time for Wasps but it’s never just about what is happening on the field.
“There have definitely been some challenges in terms of who they have been able to recruit compared to some of the players of the past and that is a difficult expectation to manage.”
The removal of Young, albeit so far on a temporary basis, raises serous doubts over his future at the Premiership club.
Wasps’ poor form this season saw them mired in the relegation battle, only for Premiership Rugby to confirm that Saracens will be heading for the drop in the summer following a second points’ deduction due to their salary cap breach.
But Young’s side have won just three of their nine games this season in the league, following on from last season’s disappointing eighth-place finish, and have already been knocked out of Europe after finishing a distant third in their European Challenge Cup pool behind Bordeaux-Begles and Edinburgh.
The former Cardiff prop won 51 caps for Wales during an international career that spanned from 1987 until 2001, and he won three Test caps on the 1989 British and Irish Lions tour of Australia as they sealed a 2-1 series triumph.
Young was appointed as Cardiff head coach in 2003 before leaving for Wasps in 2011, leading the club through their turbulent relocation to the Ricoh Arena and rebuilding the squad into a Premiership title-challenging side, finishing top of the table in 2016/17 only to lose the final to Exeter Chiefs in extra-time.
He signed his current contract last summer that runs until the end of the 2022/23 campaign, and upon announcing the deal Young confirmed that he intended it to be his last at the Ricoh Arena due to aspirations of testing himself at international level.
“I genuinely love the club and want to be part of it,” Young said in September 2019.
“(The deal is) to 2023 and this will definitely be my last contract at Wasps. After that, I’d like to think that over the next two or three seasons I can demonstrate to people that I’m worthy of a Test opportunity. I’ll hopefully come to 2023 having done enough in the game to warrant that.”