Worcester win will build momentum, says Ruddock

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The Independent Online

The Worcester coach, Mike Ruddock, hopes that a victory today against the Italian side Petrarca will launch another all-out assault on the European Challenge Cup. The Warriors reached last season's final, losing 24-16 to Bath at Kingsholm and Worcester, along with Saracens and London Irish, are one of the favourites to ensure the trophy stays in England.

Five pool winners and the three best runners-up will secure quarter-final places, with Worcester grouped alongside the experienced French outfit Bourgoin, the Romanian champions Bucharest, and Petrarca.

As his men head for the Stadio Plebiscito, Ruddock said yesterday: "It is all about building momentum. It was great to get off to a [winning] start in the EDF Energy Cup, which really sets us up for a big tie with the Ospreys in a few weeks' time.

"We want to do that in Europe and get two away wins during the next fortnight. We are just focusing on the first game. We have looked at Petrarca, and they are a tough team to beat at home, where they have won all their home matches in the Italian league.

"This will be like a cup final for them, and they have some Premiership experience – players like Ludovic Mercier [ex-Gloucester] at No 10 – and four or five guys who have played a good standard of rugby.

Worcester are likely to have their former All Blacks wing Rico Gear on duty following his recovery from an Achilles injury, replacing Miles Benjamin who has a virus.

The England centre Jamie Noon lines up in a strong Newcastle side for today's visit to Kingston Park visit of the Spanish champions, Cetransa El Salvador. Tomorrow's action includes the tournament favourites, Saracens, hosting Mont-de-Marsan.

South Africa rugby jerseys may sport a flower instead of a Springbok next year after the country's Parliamentary Sports Portfolio Committee decided to change from their traditional emblem. The committee chairman, Butana Komphela, told the Metro FM radio station in South Africa that delegates supported the call to have a uniform national sporting emblem and for the Springbok to be replaced by South Africa's national flower, the protea, from next year.

"All the other national teams no longer use the Springbok and the last time the national rugby team runs out with the Bok on their chests will be on the end-of-year tour to the UK," Komphela said. The chief executive of South Africa Rugby, Johan Prinsloo, believes that the loss of the Springbok emblem, which he described as a "huge brand", would have "drastic consequences" for rugby in South Africa.

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