WHO will claim Worcester Warriors’ number nine shirt in the absence of injured star Francois Hougaard?

This is the question facing director of rugby Alan Solomons ahead of Sunday’s meeting with Gallagher Premiership heavyweights Exeter Chiefs at Sixways (3pm).

Hougaard is set to be sidelined for the next three to four weeks after suffering a shoulder injury in last Saturday’s defeat at Northampton Saints.

Solomons admitted Warriors would “miss” Hougaard but felt he had three good scrum-halves who could step into his shoes.

Jono Kitto, 27, a signing from New Zealand club Northland this summer, came on for Hougaard against Northampton and has also tasted top-flight action during spells with Harlequins and Leicester Tigers.

Michael Heaney, 28, has yet to feature in the league this term but was Hougaard’s understudy last season and made one Premiership start.

Academy ace Gareth Simpson, 21, is also an alternative for Solomons having impressed when given opportunities in the Premiership Cup and Shield.

“Francois is an experienced player that has played a lot of Tests and done really well for the club,” Solomons said.

“Of course we will miss him but every team get injuries. It’s just the way it is.

“Jono missed almost the whole block of Premiership Cup games because he had the injury to his groin so the idea was to give him game-time.

“He ended up getting 25 minutes in the Wasps match and then got 35 minutes on the weekend.

“But he hasn’t played any rugby for a long time.

“Michael started in two of the Premiership Cup games, one was almost the whole game and the other was the opening 50 minutes.

“Michael is a very good player who is au fait with our system and young Gareth has done well too.

“They are three scrum-halves so we will make a decision as to who should start and who should bench.

“I think Jono and Michael are a wee bit more experienced than Gareth but we have got to take everything into account.

“They both have quick, accurate service, kick decently and are good game managers. They are good all-round scrum-halves and so is young Gareth.”

Solomons also expects Exeter to be boosted by the return of Australia international scrum-half Nic White for this weekend’s clash.

White has been among a number of Chiefs players in Rugby World Cup action this autumn and Exeter trio Jack Nowell, Henry Slade and Luke Cowan-Dickie remain in Japan with England.

But Solomons insists Rob Baxter’s side are still a threat without some of their big guns.

“Stuart Hogg is back and White will be back,” Solomons added.

“Yes, they are missing Slade but they have got really good midfielders.

“They have got good wingers so losing Nowell is not the end of the world.

“Jack Yeandle was playing ahead of Cowan-Dickie last season so I don’t think (the World Cup) is a massive disruption for them.”