EXPERIENCED prop Ryan Bower revealed all the players formed a pact to “keep fighting” for Worcester Warriors in the aftermath of Dean Ryan’s “shock” exit in 2016.

Ryan will come up against Warriors for the first time since his departure three years ago when his Dragons side visit Sixways in the European Challenge Cup today (3pm).

Bower said the director of rugby was “key” to his decision to leave Leicester Tigers in 2014 and join Warriors who had been relegated to the Championship.

Worcester then went on to gain promotion at the first time of asking before retaining their place in the Gallagher Premiership the following season.

“Dean is a great man,” Bower said.

“He is very tactical. His meetings were always enjoyable and got a lot of information across.

“He is a very clever rugby man. He had a great vision at the start of that Championship year.

“He brought in a lot of young English players and was key behind everyone’s decision to come here.

“He put the motions in place, got a lot of the boys together and we had a great time.

“We got promoted from the Championship and we had that first year in the Premiership.”

Worcester finished in 10th position, 15 points clear of relegated London Irish in the 2015-16 season. But the club were then rocked by Ryan’s resignation in June 2016.

Ryan has yet to explain his reasons for leaving with then chief executive Jim O’Toole insisting it was not down to a lack of finances.

Bower said the news came as a surprise but stressed it was important the squad focused on the job at hand with head coach Carl Hogg and high performance director Nick Johnston combining in a joint leadership role.

“In rugby there are always going to be shocks but you have got to get through them and bond together as players,” Bower said.

“All the players said ‘We are here and we are going to keep playing rugby’.

“Just because one person has gone, there is a still a whole backroom staff behind him that is in place. We will just keep fighting and playing for Worcester.”

Bower added that he had not stayed in touch with Ryan but was keen to greet him at Sixways this weekend.

The 28-year-old will make his 100th appearance for Warriors against Dragons. Centre Ryan Mills recently achieved that landmark while number eight Gerrit-Jan van Velze (92) and back-rower Matt Cox (98) are closing in on becoming club centurions.

All four were signed by Ryan and have been named in the squad to face Dragons.

“When you look at Worcester there are not many people that have hit the hundred mark,” Bower said.

“But about six or seven of us will get there by the end of the season with a lot of those lads coming in at the same time and playing together for six years.

“That gives the club good momentum.

“It’s a proud milestone for me.”

Ryan’s Dragons are five points clear at the top of Pool One. But they now face back-to-back clashes with second-placed Warriors.

“We have got them home and away so they will be two big matches,” Bower added.

“They will come fully-loaded here so it will be a great challenge.

“They have got two wins in this competition so they will be aiming to keep their momentum going."

On facing Worcester, Ryan said: “It will be nice to see some old faces and friends. It’s a different management group now, it’s a different ownership group, and places move on very quickly in modern day sport.

“There were some great people and some good times. It didn’t necessarily end the way I wanted it to end, but that is life.”