Mike Ruddock insists Chris Horsman is not spent as a Premiership force despite the Wales international’s recent history of injury and discipline problems.
While the Worcester director of rugby would not discuss the circumstances surrounding Horsman’s impending appearance in front of a Rugby Football Union disciplinary panel, his thoughts on the matter were eloquently outlined in a club statement which revealed the 31-year-old had been fined and banned in anticipation of the hearing.
Horsman has been cited for kicking Harlequins’ front row forward Mike Ross when the two sides met in the Guinness Premiership at Sixways last Thursday and if he admits, or is found to be culpable for, the offence he can expect to be suspended for between four and 12 weeks.
Ruddock moved to head off the union’s commissioners by slapping the tighthead with a £2,000 fine and a fortnight’s ban although Horsman is already out for the next couple of weeks with the hand injury he picked up in the following EDF Energy Cup match against London Irish.
It is just the latest frustrating development for a man with a reputation as a combative but penalty-prone player who missed virtually all of last season with a torn bicep and an ankle problem. Indeed, Horsman has made just four top- flight starts since Ruddock came to the club in the summer of 2007. Despite that fact the Welshman is adamant that Horsman has a part to play for Warriors:
“Potentially the best of Chris Horsman is still to come,” Ruddock said. “He is hitting his best ever fitness targets; because he has had time out to recover from injuries he has had an opportunity to improve on his fitness - he has done that.
“He has apologised to myself and the whole playing group for his actions. Now he has to face a tribunal. It’s a matter of waiting to see what happens and speaking to him afterwards.”
Whatever comes to pass in Bristol today, what is clear is the fact he will not be available for this weekend’s trip to Italy as Warriors open their European Challenge Cup campaign against Petraca Padova.
Worcester will not just be without The Man Who Can Do No Right this weekend, they will also miss the services of The Boy Who Can Do No Wrong following the news that Miles Benjamin will not travel to Italy because of a virus.
On the positive side, however, the long-awaited return of Rico Gear is upon us. The New Zealander also suffered with fitness problems last term and has not played since the first week of the current campaign because of an Achilles strain.
“Rico is fit again and, barring any problems, he will come with us to Italy and he is due to take Miles Benjamin’s place on the wing,” said Ruddock.
“He has trained really well. We have not rushed him back to get him right and hopefully he will now put that to bed and kick on and move up a gear.”
Ruddock will name a similar side to the one that beat the Exiles last Sunday, with young lock Graham Kitchener retaining his place in the starting line up.
Meanwhile,Worcester’s home clash in the EDF Energy Cup with Harlequins has been moved back to Sunday, November 2, with a 3pm kick-off.