Phil Vickery arrived at Wasps as one of the stars of English rugby.
One of the band of World Cup winners in 2003, the tighthead prop spent four seasons with the then London club following 11 years at Gloucester.
Vickery made plenty of memories playing under Ian McGeechan and Tony Hanks. He won both a Premiership and a Heineken Cup title whilst with Wasps and he has watched on from afar this season as his former side have progressed to the final of the Premiership.
The current crop of Wasps stars are taking on Exeter Chiefs in Saturday's showpiece event at Twickenham and when Vickery retired from the sport, the Devonshire club had just been promoted to the Premiership.
Hailing from north Cornwall himself, Vickery says that he has also enjoyed seeing a team from his neck of the woods become so successful.
“Growing up in north Cornwall, if I’d of had Exeter Chiefs on my doorstep, doing what they are doing now, it would have been brilliant,” Vickery said. “I have seen the impact that club has had on my brother’s children and on my sister’s kids. It has been inspiring. It has really inspired people.
“I have seen the way that a lot of players are filtering in from Redruth and Penzance. Emotionally, I feel so proud of what they are doing. Forget the fact that Rob Baxter is just a bloody top bloke, he is everything wrapped up into one and the way that Tony Rowe has run the club has been amazing. The way that they are is just inspiring.”
When Vickery arrived at Wasps as a 30-year-old, many were critical of the signing. Primary concerns were about fitness and whether or not a body that had undergone its third back surgery in four years could still mix it at the highest level of the game.
Wasps had to dig deep into their squad at the end of this season with Academy players stepping up to have big influences?? @joeharvey34 heard from Head of Academy, @kevinharman1969, about their pathway to becoming a professional player??https://t.co/DYWLCmWWBC pic.twitter.com/Wrm2l9T8RB— Talking Rugby Union (@TalkRugbyUnion) October 21, 2020
As they so often are, the doubters were proven wrong. Wasps were in need of a tighthead after the departure of Will Green in 2005 and with Gloucester parting ways with an established international player in Vickery, it was the perfect storm.
During his time in London, Vickery would carry on collecting international honours as he toured South Africa in 2009 with the British & Irish Lions tour and he also played in a third Rugby World Cup. Add on to this a domestic and European trophy, it is clear why the former England international still holds a special place in his heart for the club he ended his career at.
“When I go to talk about London Wasps, it’s a club that gave me an opportunity and invested in me and my family and welcomed me after 11 years at Gloucester Rugby. I feel so proud to have been part of that club,” Vickery told TRU.
“I didn’t actually understand it until I went there and I can see that ‘We are Wasps’ mentality coming across on the field and that’s not me talking as if I know what is going on in the changing room, I haven’t got a clue, but I can see it in performance. I can see it when people walk around and we are talking about this on the outside looking in.
“That is a group of players who are proud, who are proud to wear that Wasps jersey, who are going out and showing people what they are made of, what they are about and what they stand for. That gets me excited, because you can have the best players, you can have the best coaches, the best facilities, the best food, the best recovery, the best medical team, but you have got to go out and you have got to do it.
“It is about performance and going out and playing and doing it and repeating it and this weekend, we have got two absolutely brilliant teams going at it and I just hope they both go out and leave it all out there.
"This Wasps team are playing like a team with no fear and if they can go out and play with no fear, they are in with a really good shout against a team I look at in Exeter and think ‘wow, I would be proud to be part of that team’.”
BT Sport is the home of the Gallagher Premiership Rugby. BT Sport 1 will broadcast the Gallagher Premiership Final on Saturday 24th October from 5:15pm.