Christian just loves leading a merry dance… Wade dazzles in shadow of giants
When rookie Wasps wing Christian Wadeserved notice of his try-scoring potential with a scorching hat-trick against Leicester in September, the reaction of Tigers” director of rugby Richard Cockerill was almost on a par with Will Carling”s famous line about Jonah Lomu.
Back in 1995, after seeing his side pounded into submission by the new All Black sensation in a World Cup semi-final, the England captain declared: “He is a freak and the sooner he is out of rugby the better.”
Leaping into action: Wade has 10 tries in 14 games for Wasps already
Cockerill”s verdict on Wade was less blunt but the sentiment was the same: “He certainly has pace, and tries don”t come much better than his second. I want England to pick him now, immediately, whisk him down to New Zealand – so we don”t have to face him again.”
It was a fitting tribute to a prodigious talent who has soared to prominence this season. The 20-year-old”s target for this campaign was to claim a regular starting place at Wasps, but he has left that modest ambition in his vapour trail.
While the treble strike against Leicester was the highlight to date, it was by no means an isolated one. Wade now has 10 tries in 14 games, including seven in the Aviva Premiership – making him the league”s leading scorer.
Rewind to the summer and he finished top of the try table at the junior World Cup in Italy.
Up for it: Wade can also handle the physical challenge
Yet, while Lomu”s modus operandi was brute force delivered by a colossal frame, Wade”s weapon is extreme pace.
Standing 5ft 8in in a game full of giants, he is hoping to follow in the dazzling footsteps of a certain Welsh wizard of similar stature.
“Shane Williams is definitely an inspiration to me,” he said. “So are David Lemi and Jason Robinson, and all the smaller wingers. Even these days, it”s not all about size – you can have a big winger and use them in one way, then use a smaller winger in a different way. Both can get the job done, so it”s about what coaches want.
“I don”t mind the physical side of the game, that is something I can handle. It”s just about choosing the right tackle to make each time. Being small, you can”t just rush in and go high, you have to make sure your technique is right.”
Defence is a job but, of course, the joy for Wade is when he receives the ball in space and can set about leading opponents a merry dance. “I like to think I bring excitement to our attack,” he said.
“I want to make use of my pace and footwork to beat players one-on-one. When you run at someone, there is a point when you know you can go past them. It is a thrilling feeling when you look an opponent in the eye, see who it is and know whether you can beat them.”
Since that hat-trick against the Tigers, Wade has noticed a gradual increase in unwanted attention from rival defences. But no special measures can totally subdue a player blessed with such natural speed, especially when the tyro from High Wycombe – where his club play home matches – is receiving expert tuition to make him even faster in future.
Watch him go; Christian Wade is blessed with such natural speed
“I did athletics at school and when I was 16, I took it seriously for a summer,” he said. “I trained with Julian Golding (former Commonwealth 200m champion), who is a good family friend. I was doing 100m, 200m and a bit of long jump. I entered the English Schools championships and reached the final of the 100m.
“My best unofficial time was 10.82sec and official time was 11 seconds dead. I was already into rugby anyway and I wanted to do athletics because I enjoyed it and because I knew it would make me quicker on the field. I still see Julian from time to time, to do some speed work.”
Wade was a genuine sporting all-rounder – playing football, reaching a high standard in athletics and also excelling in basketball, which led to a stint with the MK Lions (British Basketball League club) Under 16s and south of England trials. Initially, he dabbled in rugby “for fun” at RGS High Wycombe – the school once attended by Matt Dawson – but eventually his interest grew as he showed promise.
Sport isn”t his only passion though. Wade plays the bass guitar and drums, and hopes to become a session musician when his rugby career ends. Prior to his promotion into the Wasps senior squad, he was studying for a degree in sports science and psychology.
A productive spell with the England Sevens team provided some early career highlights, not to mention ample footage for one of two video compilation tributes to Wade which have already surfaced on YouTube. Today it surely won”t be long before he earns a shot at England selection in the 15-a- side game.
Today, Wade starts for Wasps against Gloucester at a sold-out Kingsholm. Even in such hostile territory, he is likely to generate excitement and a touch of dread. The home side will watch him closely and like Cockerill, they will be glad to see the back of him.