Tom Cruse Exclusive: It has been brutal but you've got to have a good attitude and see what is out there

Tom Cruse joined Wasps in 2016 from fellow Premiership side London Irish
©David Howlett

Tom Cruse has let it sink in but the rawness of the situation is impossible to completely block out.

While he continues to train four times a week, the moment his life went in an unexpected direction is one he is still coming to terms with.

It has been three weeks since Wasps entered administration leading to 167 players and staff members being made redundant. Last Friday, the RFU confirmed the six-time Premiership champions were suspended from the top-flight for the rest of the season meaning they have also been relegated from the first tier.

The dark, financial cloud that had been gathering over Wasps made it clear the club were in trouble but the shock of going into administration and immediately being told he had lost his job is still etched into Cruse's thoughts.

"It has been brutal," Cruse tells TRU. "It has been absolutely brutal. We'd had a couple of meetings leading up to the final meeting where we found out we were officially in administration. At that point, you start to see the direction the club is going.

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"I tried to be naturally optimistic and say everything would be OK and it would get sorted. We got pulled into the meeting and basically got introduced to the administrators. He introduced himself and the company and the next words out of his mouth were 'as of this moment right now, you have all been made redundant.' There was obviously that little sort of gasp.

"If I am honest, and I don't think I am on my own saying this, the next 45 minutes to an hour as the meeting went on, I don't think I really listened to any of the other words that were spoken. It was quite a lot to swallow. It went from being pulled into a meeting to someone telling us how to claim redundancy pay so it just escalated very rapidly."

The 33-year-old joined Wasps back in 2016 and despite having a stint with London Irish, it was the Black and Golds who really allowed him to build a career as a Premiership player.

"For that reason, it's a club so close to my heart," he adds. "I think I was in shock a little bit because my natural instinct was to make sure that everyone was OK. Pretty much everyone after the meeting had finished just stuck around for like half an hour because we didn't want it to become real.

"Once you leave the building, it is sort of goodbye. I just wanted to console people and tell them it would be alright but it wasn't until a couple of days later when it hit me. It is so much to take in. It doesn't seem real and it still kind of doesn't. There are still a few of the lads knocking about training together, just waiting for a phone call. I am sure everyone is checking their phone constantly."

When myself and Cruse chat, it comes just a couple of days on from a glimmer of hope being offered to everyone connected to Wasps. According to The Times, a consortium - which reportedly includes several members of the Wasps Legends' - had a bid accepted by the club's joint-administrators to buy 'the men's team and the successful academy.'

Wasps would be able to play in the Championship next season if 'suitable investment' is found and if the consortium's offer meets the right requirements, their vision is to build a squad that can compete again in 2023-24.

Cruse describes this news as "amazing" but doesn't want to get ahead of himself: "You read it don't you and you don't want to be 'right, that's it then, we are back on,' but you do have to be positive. It is a boost."

Despite all he is currently dealing with, Cruse is trying to remain his usual upbeat self. He references how much the club means to so many people whether that be players, staff or supporters and also how pleased he is for his former teammates who have already moved on to pastures new, including close friend Josh Bassett who has recently joined Harlequins.

"I am done with Bass now!" Cruse says jokingly. "I don't speak to him anymore!

"Look, it is so tough, We were Wasps but then as soon as you're not Wasps anymore, it becomes everyone has got their own situation. To see Bass pick up a club almost immediately shows that he is a great player, but he is a sought-after bloke as well. He has got a young family that he needs to look after so I was buzzing for him.

"A few more lads have headed out the door and ventured over to France which is a great opportunity for them. It's great to see them back in work. Fingers crossed one of them will be me soon!"

Cruse is certainly putting in the hard yards in order to be ready for whatever the future holds. After picking up a low-grade hamstring injury in the early part of the season, he is back to "training like a full-time rugby player."

Chris Holland, Wasps' Chief Operating Officer, has ensured the players and staff can use the club's training facilities as their base while Cruse is also keeping on top of his fitness after a couple of local gyms in Kenilworth reached out to the forward.

"Obviously it is a fantastic facility [at Wasps] so to keep in touch with the lads and the staff has been great," he says. "Look, we were colleagues but it's a rugby club at the end of the day. There are still WhatsApp groups full of all the staff, full of all the players just so we can be in contact. You get very close to people so it is vitally important that training and all that stuff is still happening.

"One thing that has been really positive out of this is you reach out to people who you might know and the messages, the phone calls you get from people who want to help has been absolutely amazing."

Before Wasps' plight, Cruse had already begun thinking about the bigger picture. Coaching has always been something on his radar and it remains an aspect of the game the 33-year-old is keen to pursue

"My reality is I was looking to start negotiating a contract with Wasps [before administration], a playing contract along with some coaching," Cruse explains. "I almost got my immediate future paved out there because I did my level three coaching last year and my degree is in coaching.

"It is something I want to explore as a job so anything that I do now if it is playing in the Premiership, then that is fantastic because I can carry on on my journey but if it is not, I want to keep playing but I want to be coaching. If I do have to drop a level [to play] or if I have to move, or even if it is in the Premiership if I can coach alongside it, that would be my ideal situation."

Looking after his young family and supporting his wife Jess is the priority for Cruse. In an emotional LinkedIn post, he expressed his desire to continue playing but also his affection for Wasps.

In their final home game against Northampton Saints before the club went into administration, Cruse wasn't available due to injury but after the fixture, he did a lap of honour at the CBS Arena with Jess and his three kids, something he normally wouldn't do.

"My kids love running on the pitch," adds Cruse. "We had them in a crèche whenever we had home games and I think they built up that energy and had a little run around on the pitch but in the last game, I had picked up an injury so I wasn't playing so I did a lap.

"I wouldn't usually do that. The game just had a weird feel to it, to be honest. We had a little picture at the side with Jess as well. She usually stays in the stand but she came for a picture. We didn't know anything about administration or anything like that, but it had a weird feel to it. Murmurs start to come out in the press and you think if this is the last one, we shouldn't miss the chance to have a little piccy on the side of the pitch because it has obviously given us so many good memories."

The gratitude Cruse has for Wasps reflects the kind of person he is. He is aware he still negotiating the toughest period of his career but he is doing so with a positive mindset.

If Wasps were to get back to their feet for 2023-24 and a contract offer came his way, the hooker would "jump at the chance" to link up with the club again. While it is a difficult and challenging waiting game for now, listening to Cruse, this unthinkable situation won't keep him down for too long.

"I will play and be involved with rugby until my body gives up. I won't let age define when I should stop. If I am 36, 37 and my body is still good and I am still playing well, I am just going to keep playing. I am also realistic at the same time that I need to start looking and make sure I have got a plan for the future.

"The fact is that this is now the reality and moping around and being sad is fine when you are swallowing all the information, but the reality is you are going to get nowhere if that is your approach. It is important to be happy for the lads that have found something and it is also important to get up with a good attitude and get going, stay training and seeing what options you have got on the table as well."

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