Duckworth plans expansion on all fronts for ambitious Worcester

Worcester 21 - Northampton 19
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The Independent Online

Having won the on-pitch battle to keep their Premiership status, Worcester now intend to tackle off-field obstacles as they try to secure their future.

Having won the on-pitch battle to keep their Premiership status, Worcester now intend to tackle off-field obstacles as they try to secure their future.

Cecil Duckworth, the Warriors backer and club chairman, is opposed to a ring-fenced Premiership. "If we had not had the incentive of being able to get into the Premiership then I would not have put all the money I have done into the club," he said. "The same thing applies to Plymouth Albion, Penzance, Exeter and Coventry, who are all building up their teams and their facilities, so it is immoral to say suddenly, 'next year we're not going to do that'.

"We have to get a more long-term plan. There is an argument, and we must look at it, for expansion of the Premiership, going up to 14 clubs, possibly up to 16 and have two conferences of eight teams. Relegation invites a great deal of interest, but a lot of people don't like it. But I think a proper conference could work very well."

"We are sitting on the edge of the West Midlands and I think we can take this up to a 15,000-seat stadium over the next few years," he added.

John Brain, the club's director of rugby, said: "There will be quality players joining us. We will be looking to sign nine or 10 players. This is a Premiership club which is going places." Those places could include Europe, if they can beat Saracens and then Newcastle or Gloucester in the wildcard play-offs.

"We have a chance to play in the Heineken Cup in our second season," said Brain. "So first thing Monday morning the players will be in and we will plan our week with a view to trying win Friday's game."

Budge Pountney said of his plans to avoid a repeat of a difficult season at Northampton: "I would hope we would not need to recruit large numbers of players. Our academy is producing plenty of quality performers."

One of those, Paul Diggin, raised hopes of a Saints victory with a fine try in the first half. But his effort was eclipsed by the Warriors.

Worcester: Tries Powell, Rasmussen, Hickey; Conversions Brown 2, Hayes. Northampton: Try Diggin; Conversion Drahm; Penalties Drahm 3, Grayson.

Worcester: T Delport; G Pieters, D Rasmussen, T Lombard, B Hinshelwood; J Brown (T Hayes, 65), M Powell; T Windo, A van Niekerk (B Daly, 69), N Lyman, P Murphy, C Gillies, S Vaili (N Mason, 65), P Sanderson (capt), D Hickey.

Northampton: B Reihana; J Rudd, B Cohen, M Stcherbina, P Diggin; S Drahm (P Grayson, 75), B Fulton; T Smith, S Thompson (capt; D Richmond, 75), B Sturgess (S Emms, 69), S Boome (D Browne, 14), M Lord, D Fox (M Soden, 72), C Krige, A Blowers.

Referee: C White (Gloucestershire).

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