Shane Drahm's appearance in this weekend's European Challenge Cup final will be his last for Worcester, thereby ending speculation he is set to stay at Sixways. The Warriors fly half confirmed yesterday that attempts to extricate him from a contract with Japanese outfit Kubota Spears had failed and he will now end his three-year association with the club at Kingsholm against Bath.
Speaking exclusively to The Post Drahm revealed that Worcester had spoken to him about remaining while they tried to sort out their problematic fly half situation but that the reasons behind his original decision to move to the Far East held sway.
"I have got a contract with Kubota and I am going to honour it," Drahm said. "I am not unhappy about it. There are alot of plusses in staying but the reasons for going outweigh them. Worcester had been talking to me for a couple of weeks about staying. There were definitely reasons for staying and we wouldn't be unhappy to have stayed but the reasons for going, closer to home, less games and more time off still stand.
Director of rugby Mike Ruddock confirmed the situation: "He has signed a contract. He said to one or two people that, after the previous match, it got a little bit emotional down there with it being his last game at Sixways. "He made a comment to a few people that he would consider trying to get out of it to stay here because he had enjoyed it so much. But it is a legally binding document." That leaves former Wales stand off Matthew Jones, the man to whom Ruddock gave his only cap as national team head coach, as the front runner in the race to become the next Warriors' No 10.
If last Saturday week's final Premiership match of Drahm's career, as Warriors ran riot over Newcastle in front of a packed home crowd, was emotional, victory in his last game could be even more so, though the 30-year-old maintains he will have his mind fully focused on lifting the biggest prize in club history.
"All I am doing now is concentrating on the final," he said. "I haven't really thought about what it will be like on Sunday. It will be different for Tony Windo who is playing his last game. I'm not retiring and I've got so much homework this week that I haven't got time to worry about anything emotional."
Drew Hickey and Thinus Delport are also ending their Worcester careers and will follow Drahm to the Spears while Windo is retiring after nearly ten years at Sixways. Having
guided Warriors to their most high-profile final, Ruddock senses horizons have been lifted at a club whose recent raison d'etre had been ball retention and survival. Victory would not only bring their first major silverware, it would also provide a backdoor into the Heineken Cup. "It has lifted everybody at the club that we have the opportunity to play in a final and possibly in the Heineken Cup," said Ruddock. "If it did happen, it would be a great story from coming through the leagues to qualifying for Europe." Chris Horsman is likely to back up Tevita Taumoepeau at tighthead while Rico Gear will probably have to settle for a place on the bench behind Miles Benjamin and Marcel Garvey. The closest call will be in the back row where Netani Talei will challenge Tom Wood and Drew Hickey for the right to line up alongside Pat Sanderson and Kai Horstmann.