Wasps 47-24 Bristol: Matchwinner Jack Willis heads for Twickenham – and may well be there a while

Jack Willis booked himself a day out at Twickenham and went a long way to convincing Eddie Jones to keep him there for the entire autumn.

‘Jackeling Jack’ had already been crowned English rugby’s turnover king before his man-of-the-match display sent rampant Wasps into a Premiership final against Exeter Chiefs.

He has the opportunity now to do it on the big stage and Jones, in Coventry to watch his masterclass, will surely want to keep him in south west London for England’s five-Test autumn campaign.

“We could be seeing the start of a global superstar,” Austin Healey said after seeing Willis score one of Wasps’ five tries and dominate the breakdown. “This guy is incredible.

Kieran Brookes sets early tone for Wasps with a dump tackle on Piers O’Conor

“If England pick anybody else there needs to be someone else in charge.”

There were standout performances across the Wasps side as they blew away a very decent Bristol side.

Dan Robson dazzled at scrum-half, Jimmy Gopperth kicked almost everything and captain Joe Launchbury was back to his forceful best.

Willis scores his try before half-time…

… sparking celebrations among his Wasps team mates

But Willis was the undoubted star – two years after wrecking his knee so badly in his last Premiership semi-final that it cost him his England chance.

Yesterday proved emphatically that he has made up the lost ground, as he drove over for the key try which put Wasps 23-5 at half-time – then snuffed out any chance of a Bristol fightback by miraculously holding up Callum Sheedy over the try line.

The 23-year-old heads to Twickenham on Saturday week with more than twice the number of turnovers of any player in the league and with boss Lee Blackett warning: “The scary thing is he’s actually going to get better”.

The ageless Jimmy Gopperth landed nine kicks out of 10 for a 22-point haul

Will Rowlands wins a lineout for Wasps

Such confidence does Willis inspire in his teammates that, even against the relentless quality of Exeter, Wasps will believe their 12-year quest for a trophy is about to end.

Sensing the buoyant mood, Launchbury called his team into a huddle at the end and told them: “This isn’t our final. We must not celebrate like it is.”

He remembered back three years to Wasps’ last appearance in the showpiece where they paid the price for having expended too much emotion in beating Leicester in the semi.

Dan Robson breaks for the try line from a quickly taken tap penalty..

..And scores a try which enraged Bears as they were still talking to the ref

“Potentially when you come up with a performance like this you play your final in the semi-final,” Blackett agreed. “That’s not what we’re about.”

Wasps fear the final will come too soon for star midfielder Malakai Fekitoa who limped off with a groin injury after scoring the opening try.

But they will take heart from how they coped with his loss – Robson, Zach Kibirige and Matteo Minozzi plundering second half tries to set the seal on a command performance.

Harry Thacker scores for Bristol

Bristol bagged a late brace to soften the scoreline, but face a test of their character to bounce back for Friday’s European Challenge Cup final against Toulon.

WASPS – Tries: Fekitoa, J Willis, Robson, Kibirige, Minozzi. Cons: Gopperth 5. Pens: Gopperth 4.

BRISTOL – Tries: Morahan, Thacker, Randall, Malins. Cons: Sheedy 2.


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