Charlie Atkinson, the Wasps teenager knocked unconscious by Owen Farrell’s high tackle, has been backed to bounce back by teammate Jimmy Gopperth.
The 18-year-old was hit by the England captain’s swinging left arm just eight minutes after arriving from the bench at Allianz Park on Saturday.
Medics rushed to his Atkinson’s aid as the Saracens star was issued a red card shortly after the hour mark. Wasps capitalised on their extra man to claim a stunning 28-18 victory.
First on the scene of the incident was captain-for-the day Gopperth, a player who celebrated his 18th birthday three months after Atkinson was born. The 37-year-old Kiwi, with the assistance of referee Christophe Ridley, helped defuse a possible flashpoint as the culprit lay grounded awaiting his dismissal.
“It wasn’t great, we know that,” said Gopperth, who kicked 23 points in a faultless display. “And to be fair to Owen Farrell he was very sorry straight away. But you don’t like to see that happen to the young kid.
“Charlie said to me at the end ‘that wasn’t in the script’. He will bounce back. He’s a great young kid and has shown a lot of promise. He will be fighting and ready to go when he’s called on next.”
The first-year academy fly-half responded to an official Wasps Tweet containing a video featuring Gopperth saying: “Legend. Thanks for the messages, hopefully back soon”.
Farrell will appear before an online independent disciplinary panel on Tuesday night, charged with making a dangerous tackle.
Wasps have used the congested fixture period to blood young players with flanker Kieran Curran and back Will Simonds making their Premiership debuts at Allianz Park. Atkinson’s first Premiership minutes came in the round 16 defeat to Sale Sharks as a 73rd minute replacement for Jacob Umaga.
Other recent academy graduates Alfie Barbeary, Gabriel Oghre, Tom West, Tim Cardall and Tom Willis have also made impacts in Wasps’ rise into the top four under head coach Lee Blackett.
Gopperth, on the occasion of his 100th Wasps appearance, was one of 14 changes to the side that won at Bath six days previously that went on to upset the odds to defeat a full-strength Saracens side – who were 1/50 favourites to win at kick off.
“The boys were absolutely buzzing,” said Gopperth, who has scored 43 points against Saracens this season converting 17 of his 18 kicks at goal.
“We talked about this whole thing being a smash and grab. We are down here at 12.30, we’re going to smash it, grab the points and b*****r off back up to Cov. We did what we set out to do, and the boys were absolutely buzzing. And so they should be. To come down to Saracens, on their home patch, with a team of British and Irish Lions and England players, and put up a gritty performance, it was fun.”
Gopperth added he was undaunted by the team news which saw Saracens name a team full of internationals in the build up to their Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final clash with Leinster in a fortnight’s time.
“We were hoping they were going to bring a full squad,” said the ex-Leinster back. “It just shows the strength and depth we’ve got in our squad. The Worcester game, we changed the whole team and the boys did a job. We changed the whole team here, and the boys did a job. We’re showing real strength and depth within our group.
“We were able to blood new players and just show whoever puts the jersey on at the moment understands what we are trying to achieve, real righting and showing some great character.”
Reflecting on his own personal achievement of a perfect kicking display and guiding his team to victory on his milestone appearance in a first start at fly-half since November 2017, Gopperth said: “It was good to get back in the hot seat. It’s where I grew up playing all my career. It was quite nice and fitting that I got to play ten on my 100th game which was pretty cool.
He added: “I was very proud to lead the team on a special occasion. The boys really got behind me. I couldn’t ask for any more. A win at Allianz Park against a quality side was more than fitting.”