IN-form number eight Blair Cowan will be leaving Warriors at the end of the season and is believed to have signed for London Irish.

The former Cornish Pirates man, 26, went into the current campaign in the final year of his Worcester contract, but a broken hand in the pre-season friendly at Cardiff Blues hampered his chances to press his claims for a new deal.

By the time he had recovered, Cowan had slipped behind giant Tongan number eight Semisi Taulava in the Sixways pecking order and, apart from a 21-minute cameo at Wasps in early October, did not feature at all in the Aviva Premiership until the game at Gloucester at the end of last month.

The Kiwi back-rower was man-of-the-match at Kingsholm and then put in another impressive 80-minute shift, including a try, in last Friday’s 29-23 win over Wasps, but he has still been deemed surplus to requirements by Worcester head coach Richard Hill.

It is believed a perceived lack of bulk is one of the reasons behind Cowan being allowed to leave Sixways as Hill is looking to beef up his back row options for next season, with Taulava and Argentinean import Leonardo Senatore certainly fitting the bill.

One man Warriors are understood to be talking to as a direct replacement for Cowan is London Welsh back-rower Ed Jackson, whose form for the Exiles this season has alerted several other Premiership clubs.

Hill is also thought to be scouring the Championship for further reinforcements at the back of the pack with the likes of Moseley’s former Leicester Tigers man Ben Pienaar and Ryan Burrows at Leeds on his radar after impressive campaigns in the second tier.

Meanwhile, Hill revealed recruiting a new loosehead prop to replace the Wasps-bound Matt Mullan is currently his ‘number one priority’.

The Sixways chief said: “We are dealing with the loosehead position at the moment and there are a lot of potential contenders out there when you start looking. We have had one or two into the club this week for fitness tests and to have a look at them.

“With the likes of Euan Murray, Agustin Creevy and John Andress on board already, we potentially have a very powerful front row for next season and we just need to finish it off with the right player.

“We will need to replace Matt and to do that we will have to find someone of a high quality, so that is our number one priority at the moment.”