DEAN Ryan faces a Catch 22 situation this weekend.
Should he go full-bore for Saturday’s Amlin Challenge Cup dead-rubber with Oyonnax at Sixways in a bid to pull off a rare win that could give everyone associated with the club a much-needed shot-in-the-arm?
Or, does he opt to wrap his star performers up in cotton wool with more pressing battles in mind — primarily the return to Aviva Premiership action when Leicester Tigers visit Worcester on Friday, February 7?
While a win against the French Top 14 outfit would be a much-needed tonic for the beleaguered Sixways club, it would be a Pyrrhic victory if it came at the cost of injury to some of Warriors’ front-line players.
That seems to be Ryan’s mindset too and he is likely to continue his policy of giving youth a chance this weekend, rather than chasing a win that could ease the mounting pressure — albeit only slightly — on his shoulders.
As evidenced in Friday’s European loss at Pool One qualification-challengers Sale, game-time for Warriors’ up-and-coming youngsters is no doubt a good thing.
The development of the likes of Max Stelling and Ben Howard, who both recently committed their futures to the club, has been one of the few positives from this season so far.
There are plenty more talented academy players champing at the bit for their chance too and Ryan has admitted his frustration at not having been able to blood exciting fly-half prospect Tiff Eden in the cup competitions due to injury.
Through no fault of his own Eden has become something of an enigma at Sixways. The weight of expectation was piled on his young shoulders when the now-departed rugby operations director Corin Palmer hailed him as the next big thing.
Understandably, this had Worcester’s fans eager to see a glimpse of their new prodigy in action and he impressed fleetingly at the pre-season JP Morgan Premiership Sevens, before picking up a foot injury.
Obviously, Warriors’ hopes cannot be pinned upon an untried fly-half who doesn’t even turn 20 until October, but Ryan is excited by his potential and frustrated he has not been able to give him a chance.
The Warriors boss said: “We listed people like Tiff in our European squad because we deliberately targeted this tournament to get game-time for some of our youngsters.
“Tiff is our third 10, but he is not fit yet, so won’t be able to feature this weekend. I’ve seen him early on in the ‘A’ League and I’ve seen him in training.
“He’s a young man and I would have loved to have been able to do the same with him that we have with Max (Stelling) this season and I don’t think he’d have been a million miles away from the England under 20s either.
“When I named this selection, I would have loved for Tiff to have had three or four games in both the LV and the Amlin, so he would have grown over the six months.
“We are fast-tracking him to try to get him fit, but it will be difficult to create an opportunity for him from now on.”