DEAN Ryan has called on his Worcester players to show 'character and heart' as the Sixways club fights for its Aviva Premiership life.

The 42-3 LV= Cup home defeat to Exeter Chiefs last weekend was arguably the nadir of an already woeful campaign, but the Warriors director of rugby is determined to keep battling on.

Worcester return to league action with tonight's visit of Leicester Tigers (7.45pm) and Ryan has challenged his players to summon up a reaction.

"We have to solve the character of this team and the heart of this team," he said. "That's at the core of everything that happens. Sometimes we make some strides in it, sometimes we take some backward steps.

"That's the challenge. What's important is that we get that balance right. I'm pretty confident at the moment that we're getting both of those in the right place and I accept that the weekend was a significant lapse.

"We're aware of the problems at this club but we're also aware that we're fighting like mad to get ourselves out. There's some really good people in the middle of this club who are doing their utmost to try to do that.

"I just hope everybody gives us as much support as they can to give us a chance because it's an important part of that survival challenge.

"Be assured, I am aware of the problems and I'm very aware of dealing with them going forward but I've also got to get ready for Leicester and we've got to get everybody's minds focused."

Ryan was hurt by his side's lifeless showing against the Chiefs and has left his players in no uncertain mind that their efforts were not up to the required level.

He added: "I don't like being involved with a rugby club that doesn't respond in a way that shows our commitment. I think around the turn of the year we were starting to get it right, we didn't have right at the beginning and that (Exeter) was a significant lapse.

"It was an LV= game, but it did show the character and core of this club and it didn't show it in a good light. Let's move on and get on with Leicester.

"I'm well aware of the implications of what we're trying to do long-term versus short-term but let's get on with the short-term because I'm desperate for this club to fight for it's survival and therefore I've got to frame decisions around that.

"I'm aware of the challenge and the problems and when they manifest themselves publicly, everyone else gets to see them. We're doing everything we can to do that in the long-term and now we're doing everything to get everyone in a space to play tonight."