By Deputy Editor Alan Pearey
THE BEST way to predict the future is to create it – and Worcester will be going all out to do just that when they line up in the JP Morgan Premiership Rugby 7s Series on Friday night at the Rec.
Prior to last week’s opening event, the Warriors had won only one match in the three previous years of the series. At Kingsholm they made a mockery of that statistic, racking up wins against Exeter (26-17), hosts Gloucester (31-19) and Bath (27-14) to win their regional heat at a canter.
While no one could doubt the influence of wily ex-England scrum-half Paul Hodgson, the Player of the Round award went to the skipper Richard de Carpentier, a former England Sevens international playing in his first series.
“I missed it last year when I was at Leicester because I was injured, so Kingsholm was my first taster,” says the back-row, who arrived at Sixways midway through last season. “Being a Thursday night I wasn’t expecting too much but there were 13,000 there and the atmosphere was amazing.
“We trained on the Monday and Tuesday and looked sharp. We feel fresh, at the peak of our fitness, and I wasn’t surprised at our success. I never take to the field expecting anything less than a win.”
The likes of Max Stelling, James Stephenson and Tom Chapman typified the grace and graft of a Worcester side with a point to prove. The arrival of Dean Ryan has provided a new focus, the director of rugby demanding that Worcester be competitive every time they take the field, whether that’s with the Cavaliers, Under-18s or sevens team. This summer they spent four weeks training at Malvern College, moving all the equipment down there, ahead of friendlies against Rotherham, Cardiff Blues and the Ospreys.
“Dean wants to impose a winning mentality within the club. We’ve had a lot of changes and have worked really hard in pre-season, with everyone trying to impress the coaches. The sevens series has been a goal for us at the end of pre-season.
“On one level the series is a fitness blast, with loads of running to raise the aerobic threshold, but we’re also using it to send a message that we’re the new Worcester.
“In the past teams have thought ‘It’s only Worcester’ when they face us but we refuse to be a pushover for anyone. We take the field expecting nothing less than a ‘w’ and the boys are gagging to play. We showed a lot of energy at Kingsholm, with players not just scoring tries but chasing back to narrow the angle for opposing kickers.”
Summer recruit Cameron Goodhue, a signing from Auckland Blues, will make his Worcester debut on Friday, when the Warriors do battle with fellow qualifiers Gloucester, Newcastle, Leicester, Harlequins and Saracens. Sarries, Newcastle and holders London Irish have won the three series to date.
“There are no favourites – the winners will be whoever turns up on the night,” says de Carpentier. “But if we get our game right then we’ll be difficult to beat.”
Tickets for the JP Morgan Premiership Rugby Series Final on Friday 9 August at the Rec, Bath (7pm) cost just £7. See bathrugby.com/tickets or call 0844 448 1865.