Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Guinness Premiership Preview

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Guinness Premiership Preview

Article excerpt

Worcester boss John Brain has issued a rallying cry to his Guinness Premiership relegation favourites as their status among English rugby's elite grows increasingly fragile.

The Warriors' dismal Christmas period ( home defeats against London Irish and Harlequins ( has cut them nine points adrift of 11th-placed Northampton, who they tackle at Franklin's Gardens today.

After the Saints clash, Worcester's 10 remaining league games include trips to top-five clubs Bristol, Leicester, Wasps and Gloucester, suggesting time is running out.

Brain said: "I suppose we will be written off. The only crumb of comfort is that we've lost two games over Christmas, both of which we could quite easily have won.

"We are at the bottom, so over the first 11 games, we have been the worst team. But I can say we're not losing games by much. We've got to make sure we turn those margins round. The test is what happens in the next few weeks. We now know that, as a team, we have a clear choice. We can either fragment or stick together.

"It would be a shame if we fragmented. We are capable of winning any game."

Worcester have already lost to Northampton in the Premiership this season, while Saints' last home game produced a 8-6 success against Wasps.

Wasps, well positioned in the title play-off zone, welcome back number eight Lawrence Dallaglio against Recreation Ground hosts Bath today. Dallaglio also regains the captaincy from rested fly-half Alex King.

Rugby director Ian McGeechan said: "We are trying to look after the players and keep them fresh during this intense period.

"We have been relatively lucky with injuries, and the depth of the squad and keen competition for places allows us to rotate the team following our physical encounter with Gloucester on Boxing Day."

Bath go into battle with England forwards Lee Mears and Danny Grewcock on duty, despite them both being cited for alleged stamping incidents and facing Rugby Football Union disciplinary hearings.

London Irish, unbeaten in their last three Premiership outings, go to Gloucester with Exiles rugby director Brian Smith still enthused by his team's thrilling Boxing Day success against Leicester. …

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