Worcester had a taste of the World Cup last Tuesday night when Argentina came to Sixways, watched by the scouting England team manager, Martin Johnson, and his coaches. But while Johnson and the Pumas will soon be facing off in New Zealand, the points earned during the opening six Aviva Premiership matches are exercising the mind of Worcester coach Richard Hill as his promoted club returns to the top division.
"We will set a target of points from the first six matches," said Hill. "We have only one player away at the World Cup [the Tonga hooker Aleki Lutui] whereas others will be more affected. Unless you're one of the best two or three clubs, you need a good start. If you lose the first two or three everyone starts talking about relegation."
Worcester kick off at home to Sale Sharks – "the best possible chance to get a good start," said Hill – followed by Saracens and Gloucester away. "Then we've got Harlequins and Northampton, teams who are going to be missing key players," said Hill. "We've got to take advantage of that. I'm sure other clubs will be thinking the same way."
Hill admitted the desire to establish Worcester in the middle third of the 12-team Premiership as soon as possible. Their six previous seasons there were mostly fights to avoid relegation. Eight of the clubs own their own grounds – none more impressive than Sixways, which is the size of a small sovereign state next to the M5, with six spare pitches, an indoor training centre, conference facilities, a leisure centre and a hotel coming soon. Hill recently attended a Premiership Rugby conference that spelt out the huge financial disadvantage faced by the three teams renting stadiums from football clubs (London Irish, Wasps and Saracens). A ground-owner has nine per cent higher costs, but earns revenues an average 55 per cent more than tenant clubs, through week-long commercial activity. Northampton last week announced profits of £801,000 in 2010-11 from a record turnover of £13.17 million.
Hill, who has coached at Harlequins, Gloucester and Bristol, said: "This club is generating millions off the field. As a model it is brilliant. If the bloke at Wasps or Sale pulls out, or Bruce Craig gets fed up at Bath and goes, they're in trouble. Saracens' loss-making is millions. Here it's building up into a really stable business and you can see the long-term future."
Just so long as they win next Saturday? "We're under no illusions," said Hill. "Phil Davies [the forwards' coach] and I had quite a relaxed year last year, and enjoyed it. We're back into the madhouse now. You've just got to try and keep sane. I'm hoping that because I've been there a few times, I'm older and wiser and Ican stay chilled out."Reuse content