LINE-out expert Chris Jones believes the Worcester set-piece is returning to top form in time for tonight’s Aviva Premiership trip to Leicester Tigers (7.45pm).
For so many years the cornerstone of Warriors’ successes, the line-out has not been as dominant as usual in recent games, and it was bec-oming a cause for concern.
In the recent top-flight clashes with Bath, Saracens and Harlequins, Worcester’s line-out was a major weakness.
Although Warriors beat reigning champions Sarries and were only just edged out by Harlequins, the line-out problems were painfully obv-ious in all three clashes as Worcester struggled to win even 50 per cent of their own ball.
However, after plenty of soul-searching at Sixways during the recent two-week break from action, Jones feels they are now back on track – a point emphatically backed-up by the demolition of the Newcastle Falcons’ line-out in Worcester’s 19-9 victory last time out.
Jones and Co stole no less than seven of the Falcons’ 16 throws in that game, which bodes well ahead of tonight’s daunting trip to Welford Road.
Clearly, Falcons and Tigers are different animals, but former Sale Sharks lock Jones believes Worcester should take plenty of confidence from their latest outing.
The 31-year-old said: “We had struggled with our set-piece in recent games, but we worked really hard on it during the two-week break and it came together against New-castle.
“We were able to give the backs the ball they deserve and the half-backs, Goodey and Pezza (Andy Goode and Shaun Perry), controlled the game well.
“We were really happy with the way it went and we set the benchmark against Fal-cons – we knew we are better than we had been recently, so it was good to prove that.”
He added: “We have a point to prove tonight. We are setting benchmarks at the mo-ment and when Leicester came to Sixways just after Christmas, we didn’t perform – in fact that was probably the last time we didn’t perform at home – so we want to make up for that. We will take confidence from the Falcons win and roll on to Welford Road.
“Are we a different team to the one that lost at home to Leicester? Yes and no. Yes, because we have some more confidence. We made some simple mistakes that day and let them score easy tries, so we are different in that respect.
“However, we are not different from then in that we are still a good, tight-knit team with some great players and on our day we can beat anyone.”
After the trip to the Tigers’ lair, Worcester return to Sixways for back-to-back home clashes with Exeter and London Irish as the Premiership run-in gathers steam and Jones has been impressed by Warriors’ home form.
He said: “We have a great record at Sixways in 2012 and we are making the place into a fortress. The fans always get behind us and we knew against Newcastle we just had to pull a win out of the bag.
“From one to 15, we put it on the line and we know that, if we turn up and everyone does their jobs, we can beat anyone.”