Launchbury hangs in the balance

Joe Launchbury is in high demand
Joe Launchbury is in high demand

Wasps hope their relocation to Coventry will persuade Joe Launchbury to reject interest from Aviva Premiership rivals Saracens.

The two-time European champions believe the £20million move from Adams Park in High Wycombe to the Ricoh Stadium will provide the financial muscle to re-establish themselves among the continent's elite.

At the top of their priority list is convincing England second row Launchbury to sign an extension to his contract, which is due to expire at the end of the season.

Director of rugby Dai Young believes that by moving to the Ricoh Stadium, Wasps have convinced Launchbury they are ready to become a force once again.

"We've had have to demonstrate certain things to Joe to make his decision easier," Young said.

"He wanted to know that we're an ambitious club, that we will attract players and improve the squad and that we won't overplay him.

"He's not demanding that we win things, but certainly that we compete. And on top of that he wants clear evidence that we're sustainable.

"I think we've pretty much ticked all those boxes now.

"Whatever Saracens offer him - and we know they can't speak to him until January - we have to pay the market value. They're professional players and we have to pay what they're worth.

"Discussions are ongoing but we expect to put this to bed in the next month to six weeks. If it goes on any longer you have to fear the worst."

Wasps were one hour away from bankruptcy two years ago and the club have used the threat of liquidation to explain the move away from their roots in London and the south east.

Responding to opposition from supporters, they stress that losing £3million a year is unsustainable and that salvation is offered by the revenue streams of Ricoh Stadium's conference, hotel and entertainment facilities.

Now possessing the financial clout to attract top players, Young is in search of the marquee signings that will lure supporters to their new 32,000 capacity home.

"I'm shopping in Marks & Spencer now when I have been in Lidl for three years. It is a different shop," Young said.

"I am looking at a different market, different players. It is really exciting to think of the players.

"We know that the stadium will take a bit of filling and that will take a lot of hard work.

"It's my task to try and attract three or four big-name players that can excite the local rugby followers and attract new supporters. (Wasps owner) Derek (Richardson) is 100 per cent behind that.

"A couple of the players I want wear black! We want to get the best players in."