Warriors on the Warpath?
By P G Tips
October 3 2017
Worcester Warriors will be on the warpath when they visit Bath this Saturday. Played five, lost five in the Premiership, with only a single league point they look likely relegation fodder already. To add to their problems the club is short of finance and up for sale and their DOR has just announced he is to leave to be Head Coach of the USA Eagles. Desperate, defiant attack is often the response to multiple woes and that should be the Warriors mind-set this weekend, but what form will that attack take?
Gary Gold has ample practice of generating “fight or flight” response from underperforming clubs, or those needing to rediscover themselves. Even he, though, may have his work cut out if Warriors morale matches their current fortunes. Their plight is exaggerated by a lengthy injury list, 16 of the squad being unavailable for this match. While that number is not exceptional in these attritional times, those missing include steely forwards Schonert, Potgieter and Cox plus playmakers Francois Hougaard and Wynand Olivier. Gold has diagnosed a lack of confidence and some fans are already predicting doom and gloom and a possible capitulation at the Rec. That though is not the way of the Warrior, or of Gold. The solution will probably be back to basics rugby based on the 3Ps of Possession, Position and Pressure to which should be added persistence and pugnacity in defence. Even without some stellar names they have the men for the job. Jack Singleton is a promising hooker who will hope to have England squad rival Tom Dunn for one of the breakfasts Eddie Jones accuses him of being too fond of. Behind him uncompromising and highly experienced Donnacha O’Callaghan is likely to be joined by Bath old boy Will Spencer, once thought to have bright potential before his career at the Rec was curtailed by injury. Teaming up with two more Bath alumni, Denton and Faosiliva, they should bring both lineout presence and aggressive drive in the loose. If their pounding leads to penetration, the backline dangers could come from the back three- notably fullback Pennell and slippery winger Humphreys. These two will be hoping to see plenty of ball as a result of gain line carries from Ben Te’o and slick distribution from Arr and Shillcock. Gold may however, spring a surprise by introducing new signing Wallaby Jono Lance, owner of 2 Super Rugby winners medals, at No 10.
Bath, buoyed by an uplifting win at Wasps ought to be ready for the onslaught. It was defence that won that match, as indeed it has all three victories this term. Bath entered the final minutes last Sunday the stronger, despite enjoying only a third of possession and having to make an astonishing 174 tackles. Todd Blackadder will be hoping to increase the possession from set piece and breakdown and the omens here look good. Bath had the best scrum performance in the first 4 rounds and recovered from early difficulties to dominate Wasps there. They also enjoyed a perfect lineout, while the back row, which made one in every three tackles, won the battle of the turnover. More of the same will be needed to keep the Warriors at bay.
Blackadder has highlighted game management, keeping the scoreboard ticking and attacking fluidity as areas to work on, while also asking for more defensive pressure. To raise the scoring rate he may want to change the midfield. Rhys Priestland has certainly shown pragmatic game management with his drop goals against Saracens and Wasps but Freddie Burns showed that he can play flatter and get the backline moving forward. I would not be surprised to see him and Ben Tapuai start the match. Bath were actually the more penetrative team last weekend and made more ground per carry than their opponents, but for most of the match this was through the forwards and Chris Cook. A Burns/Tapuai axis could set Jonathon Joseph free more often and bring Anthony Watson into play in planned attack.
Warriors defence has let in 18 tries so far, so this could be the perfect opportunity to test out and polish the fluency in attack that Blackadder seeks. There should be no complacency though. Bath’s fortunes so far this season sound a warning note: wins over last year’s teams placed 2,3 & 4 but defeats to 7 & 8. Both teams should have ample motivation: Warriors face a grim battle for survival; Bath a chance to push for the top four. It will be tough, maybe compelling, but will it be bonanza for Bath and woe for Warriors? We will know by 5PM on Saturday.
Obano, Walker, Perenise, Stooke, Ewels (Capt.) Mercer, Underhill, Faletau. Cook, Burns, Brew, Tapuai, Joseph, Rokodoguni. Watson.
Replacements: Auterac, Dunn, Thomas, Phillips, Bayliss. Fotuali’i, Priestland, Clark,
Worcester: Bower, Singleton, Alo, O'Callaghan (capt), Spencer, Denton, Faosiliva, van Velze. Arr, Shillcock. Humphreys, Willison, Te'o, Adams; Pennell.
Replacements: Taufete'e, Waller, Milasinovich, Phillips, Scotland-Williamson, Kitto, Lance, Hammond.
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2017:10:11:09:13:16 by CoochieCoo.
Great reading, thanks. Will expect Worcs. to throw everything available at us. 5 Points needed but they will be no pushovers and are not to be underestimated...a wounded animal can be very unpredictable!
Adopted players: 2018/19 Michael Van Vuuren;  T Faletau;  D Denton;  H. Agulla;  L Houston;  W Spencer;  F. Louw
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