Rookie Carlisle given

backing for cup clash


Rugby Correspondent

Chris Pennell insists the Worcester squad are right behind Joey Carlisle ahead of the most important phase of the rookie fly half’s career.

Injuries to regular stand offs Matt Jones and Loki Crichton, have propelled Carlisle in the Warriors first team and he is set for just the third start of his career in the defining European Challenge Cup match in Bourgoin on Friday night.

Victory would virtually guarantee Worcester passage into the quarter finals and with three home matches to complete their Pool Three fixtures would give them an outstanding chance of a high seeding and home ties for the knockout rounds.

But much depends on whether Carlisle can translate his undoubted promise into a polished performance.

There is no doubt in Pennell’s mind, his fellow academy product can take the same journey to his own.

Plucked from obscurity and thrust into the Premiership limelight, in the last 12 months Pennell has overcome some early difficulties and developed into a quality performer both at full back and on the wing.

He maintains Carlisle can do the same: “There is no doubting Joey,” Pennell says. “He has come on leaps and bounds since he first started training and playing with the first team. You saw on Sunday that he really stepped up to the mark. He had a very solid game.

“As a team we will all back him to the hilt. He is a well established ten and there’s a lot of respect for him around the club. He is a lot better at running the game, his talk is where it should be and is getting better. We have every confidence in him.”

Indeed Pennell believes the added responsibility of being the only fit senior fly half at Sixways, albeit a very junior senior, will have a positive impact on Carlisle’s development,

“It’s always important to get game time – especially with a bit of consistency, I found that. It is vital for your progression. When there are injuries it’s your chance as a young guy to step up and take the opportunity.”

The latest injury that has handed the 20-year-old his opportunity was ankle ligament damage picked up by Crichton in Sunday’s 23-6 loss to Saracens.

Carlisle, who is 21 on Thursday, played an hour at Vicarage Road and while he could not inspire a lacklustre visiting team to a third consecutive league win, he showed enough audacity to threaten to open up a well-organised defence.

Several high risk inside passes almost paid off as Warriors strived for a try only to be denied close to the line. However, there was also the odd wobble, particularly a quick lineout deep in his own 22 that missed its target, Pennell, and left his team scrambling to keep Sarries out.

Carlisle performance was not too dissimilar to the collective effort that failed to reach the anticipated heights in Watford.

While Saracens scored three tries, two because of Worcester mistakes, Pennell and Carlisle could not fashion any and with a penalty-strewn first half they were always under pressure.

They will need to do much better in France. “We have got to get our heads right and bounce back,” Pennell said. “Winning would take the pressure off our home fixtures and put us in an ideal position for the rest of the competition.”