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Worcester Warriors 21, Gloucester 15
MAN of the moment Andy Goode earned the plaudits with his off-the-bench try-scoring cameo that helped Warriors on their way to a much-celebrated derby day victory over local rivals Gloucester.
The Worcester fans danced in the Sixways aisles at the final whistle when their side’s four points were confirmed and the club can now think about looking up the Aviva Premiership table rather than down it.
Newcastle’s 16-10 home defeat to Exeter left them 13 points adrift of Worcester and all-but ended any lingering relegation fears Warriors may have had.
Obviously, there is still a lot of rugby to be played between now and May, but Worcester are starting to get the results their water-tight defence merits.
However, Goode was quick — and right — to point out the importance of maintaining the cornerstone of the squad that this success is being built upon.
It is still in the early stages, but what Richard Hill spoke about upon his appointment prior to a campaign in the Championship is gradually starting to take shape.
That has all been forged around a strong work ethic and a great team spirit, which is difficult to replace or rebuild if the heart of the squad is ripped out by player departures.
Miles Benjamin and Marcel Garvey are stalling on new deals and would be tough to replace, but they are just two of a whole host of first-team regulars who are in the last six months of their deals and free to talk to other clubs.
In rugby union, contracts are short and squads are overhauled on a season-by-season basis, but it is a cause for concern that the future of so many key members of the Worcester team is up in the air.
It is still early days and I’m sure the club will be working hard to convince their brightest talents that their careers can continue to flourish at Sixways.
But, if their powers of persuasion aren’t strong enough, there could be a mass exodus from the club’s first team at the end of this term.
While that would no doubt hand head coach Hill a massive amount of money to recruit some top players, there is no guarantees they would be able to reproduce the team spirit that is clearly in such abundance at Sixways these days.
With Warriors being closer than ever to finally breaking into the Premiership’s top-six, the contract talks over the next couple of months’ could go a long way to realising or shattering that dream.