Club-by-club guide: Worcester

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The Independent Online

Director of Rugby: Mike Ruddock

Captain: Pat Sanderson

IN

Matt Jones (London Welsh), Ben Jones (Doncaster), Chris Latham (Queensland), Hal Luscombe (Harlequins)

OUT

Thinus Delport, Shane Drahm, Drew Hickey (all Japan), Tony Windo (coaching), Phil Murphy (Leeds), Gavin Quinnell (Viadana)

First five games

Sep 7 Northampton Saints (h)

Sep 14 London Wasps (a)

Sep 21 Leicester Tigers(h)

Sep 27  Bath Rugby (a)

Oct 2 Harlequins  (h)

Lessons from last season

If Worcester had started last season the way they finished it, the Premiership play-offs would have been the least of their expectations. Winless and rock bottom by the turn of the year, Mike Ruddock and Clive Griffiths (left) saw their attempts at a more expansive style of rugby come to fruition in impressive style. Their first away win of the season at Sale proved to be the turning point and only three defeats in their last 11 games saw Ruddock’s men finish the season - Wasps aside - as the form team in the Premiership.

Weaknesses

While Ruddock and Griffiths have assembled an impressive squad at Sixways, doubts remain at halfback. Australian No.10 Shane Drahm, who was pivotal to Worcester’s revival in the second half of the season, has departed for Japan and leaves a massive hole to fill. The onus will be on scrum-half Matt Powell to pull the strings.

Strengths

Traditionally strong in the forwards, Worcester now have pace to burn out wide – wingers Miles Benjamin (left) and Marcel Garvey allied to the experience of Rico Gear are as good a unit as any in the Premiership. When it comes to the ELVS, Worcester have done their homework after coach Clive Griffiths spent the summer in Australia observing Queensland Reds.

Player to watch

Arguably the finest full-back in world rugby until a serious shoulder injury last year, Chris Latham’s arrival at Sixways adds a new dimension to what is already a mouthwatering Worcester attack. A devastating broken field runner, Latham’s experience and eye for a gap, can only help further the development of exciting young wingers Benjamin and Garvey. Defensively, there is not a better man to have under a high ball than the wily Wallaby.

Did you know?

Chris and Lee Fortey became the first twins to play on the same team in a Premiership match when they turned out in the Worcester front row against Newcastle in 2005.

Prediction

Bigger things are expected at Sixways this season on and off the field. They could be the division’s dark horses.

8th

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