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Clarke set to solve Hill's Warriors wing worries
DESPITE having soared high in the try-scoring stakes in recent weeks, Worcester Warriors have had their wings clipped ahead of Sunday’s trip to Wasps (3pm).
Centre Jon Clarke will continue to deputise for Nikki Walker out wide after replacing the winger, who pulled a hamstring just nine minutes into the 35-11 thrashing of London Irish.
Samoan international David Lemi is the Sixways club’s only fit senior winger after Scottish flier Walker joined Josh Drauniniu and Errie Claassens (both knee) on the treatment table.
While not naturally a winger, former Northampton Saints midfielder Clarke impressed in Walker’s position against the Exiles, even running onto Josh Matavesi’s grubber kick to score the last-gasp try that secured a bonus point for Warriors.
Despite his shortage of wingers, head coach Richard Hill is refusing to push the panic button at this stage as he expects his crocked trio of widemen all to be back match-fit in a couple of weeks.
With Sunday’s trip to Adams Park being Worcester’s final Aviva Premiership game before the two-week Amlin Challenge Cup break, when the club will give a number of fringe players a run-out, Hill isn’t overly concerned.
The Sixways chief said: “Nikki tweaked a hamstring, which was very annoying for him as he’d only just come back from a shoulder injury.
“He’s bitterly disappointed and that’s a big loss to us, but Jon Clarke did well after coming on in the first 10 minutes – he hasn’t played that much rugby recently.
“He was going to have the last 20 minutes in the centre, but ended up playing 70-odd minutes on the wing, but he did exceptionally well. Josh is also out, so it is likely Jon will play on the wing again this week.”
Hill added: “Errie is another week away from being ready too – there are a few who are now right on the cusp of returning to the team, but I’m loathe to change the team too much for this last league match before the cup games.
“I could rush a few people back – like Jake Abbott, Ed Shervington, Neil Best and Andy Short, for example – but I’ll bring them back into the mix in the Amlin Cup.”
Meanwhile, scrum-half Paul Hodgson is in line to make his first appearance for Warriors following an injury-delayed start to his Sixways career.
The former London Irish man’s return to fitness is timely as fellow number nine Shaun Perry has suffered bone bruising in his knee and will be out for a couple of weeks.
Hill explained: “Paul has a couple more days training to get through but, all being well, I’ll bring him into the 23-man squad for Wasps.
“I hope this will be the first step for Paul to come into the squad. He’s been training with us for the last couple of weeks full-on and he’s desperate to be involved – he has a superb attitude.”