War of attrition
Wasps star Ashley Johnson talks Tigers, Springboks and the beast that is Billy Vunipola!
Last Updated: 21/11/12 5:40pm
Skysports.com caught up with Wasps star Ashley Johnson to talk Tigers, Springboks and the beast that is Billy Vunipola!
The Springbok loose forward joined Wasps from South African provincial side the Cheetahs on a two-year contract and has made a huge impression in his early days in the Aviva Premiership.
Johnson will experience for the first time the intense rivalry of a clash between Wasps and Leicester in Sunday's Premiership clash at Adams Park.
"We are still unbeaten at home but Leicester is going to be a tough challenge," said Johnson.
"This is a massive derby game for us - I am not used to this, but I can feel the atmosphere is a bit different around the changing room and around the training pitch - there is a bit more excitement and anticipation for this game. This weekend will be hard but these are the games you want to play in and the fight for starting positions is tough."
Johnson has been impressive for Wasps and despite seeming to pick up man of the match awards every time he plays, he says it is a team effort.
"I am really enjoying it here at Wasps, the club has really been good to me and helping my family settle in," he said. "We all arrived when it was a bit sunny but we are gradually getting into the winter life in London - it is kind of different to what I am used to in South Africa.
"I think we are all growing as a team - I think our pack of forwards started off a bit slowly but we are all learning about how we play and how best to gel.
"As a pack of forwards we can keep on growing and keep on improving. My aim is to learn as much as I can here and develop my game that benefits the team. The competitive environment is a good one to be in," added Johnson
"It is definitely good for the team because we need to raise our game each week. Whoever gets picked for the team needs to step up and do the job that is required of you. If you are not performing well you know that there is someone else ready to take your jersey."
Before Sunday's clash with Leicester, Johnson will be watching how his Wasps teammates James Haskell, Joe Launchbury and Tom Palmer get on against his country of birth as England host South Africa at Twickenham.
Johnson believes that it will be a war of attrition at Twickenham on Saturday and while all eyes will be on the two packs tearing into each other, Johnson believes the backs will have a say in the outcome.
"If Joe starts I really hope he has a good game - Tom Palmer and James Haskell as well, but hopefully the Springbok forwards will be good as well and manage to get the upper hand," he said.
"I have watched Launch [Launchbury] come on leaps and bounds and he is a very physical player so he should enjoy playing against the boks. I think this game will be won and lost in the backs though, if England can stand up to the South African packs then they could do well."
Despite signing for Wasps for two years, Johnsons has not ruled out playing for the Boks again and would love to add to his three caps.
"I spoke to Heyneke Meyer [Springbok coach] just before I came to London and I think that the door is always open for guys who are playing overseas," he said.
"You need to be in their plans though - there is a lot of talent when it comes to backrowers in South Africa. I would love to play for South Africa again but my first aim is to perform well for Wasps and do the best I can do here.
"If the door is slightly open and I do get the chance to be selected, well that will be on the back of my Wasps performances. The best I can do is to concentrate on that and maybe then I will get another opportunity to play in for my country."
The talent at Wasps has certainly impressed Johnson and while 21-year-old lock Launchbury is already in the England set-up, Johnson is expecting big things from another rising star at the club.
"Christian Wade and Billy Vunipola really have some talent - I think Billy can really add something special to the England squad.
"He is just an awesome player and the way he conducts himself on the field is impressive, he brings a lot of physicality to any side. He is still young and is learning but I see him being a big part of the England set-up in a year or two."