Rob Tanner hears former England centre Will Greenwood’s views on Worcester and the national XV.
Worcester Warriors must get off to a good start if they are to avoid a repeat of last season’s flirtation with relegation, England World Cup winner Will Greenwood has warned.
The Warriors struggled for most of the last campaign until new coach Mike Ruddock managed to turn around their fortunes and with a few additions, most notably Australian full back Chris Latham, people around Sixways are beginning to talk about a fight at the other end of the table whn the new season gets under way.
The capture of Latham has certainly got everyone’s hopes up and it isn’t hard to see why. The 32-year-old has made 78 appearances for his country and scored 200 international points, and while Greenwood is impressed with Latham’s capture, he feels a top- class fly half is of equal importance for the Warriors.
The departure of veteran Australian Shane Drahm was a blow and while Wales international Matthew Jones has been recruited as a replacement, he has yet to show that he has fully recovered from the serious knee injury he picked up two years ago.
Greenwood said he would be worried for the Warriors if Jones didn’t have more support.
“Latham is one of the world’s best players and he will be a great asset for Worcester,” the former Leicester centre said.“He has proved himself time and again and will bring great experience to the Warriors ranks.
“Worcester have lost quite a few players who were good servants but they have a lot of good youngsters coming through. There is a lot of talent there.
“Sixways is always a tough place to go and they aren’t adverse to playing on Friday evenings. It can be extremely difficult for visiting teams under floodlights.
“They showed at the end of last season how competitive they can be but it is going to be a tough Premiership next season and it is important that they get off to a good start
“They don’t want to be struggling come Christmas because they might not get a second chance like they did last season. They haven’t been consistent enough in the past but if they can solve that, then there is no reason why they can’t be going for the play-offs.
“My only concern would be at fly half. They have lost Drahm, who was brilliant for them last year. It is such an influential position and all the Premiership sides have big players to play there. The fly-half pulls the strings and it is a big ask for Matt Jones.
“He has been injured and I haven’t seen much of him. I would like to see more to judge him but I think Worcester do need to get someone in to fill such an important position.”
Greenwood also feels the coming season will be an important one for England after the traumas of the recent tour to New Zealand, but he is backing his former team-mate Martin Johnson, the new manager of the national team to turn England’s fortunes around this winter.
“They had a tough time in New Zealand and while some supporters might shrug and say every team gets beaten in New Zealand, some will be less forgiving and there will be a lot of pressure on for the first few games at home,” said Greenwood, who played 55 times for his country and was a member of the 2003 World Cup winning side.
“It is a big job in front of Martin Johnson but he has a young squad and they will have more time to prepare for the internationals. New attack coach Brian Smith is a great coach and he has plenty of talent to work with.
“Martin has taken plenty on but he will get them organised and disciplined. It is important he is able to mould them and blend them into a single unit.
“They must be brave enough to take their chances but also be able to dig the ball out on their own goal line. England need to find the mental strength to deal with anything that goes wrong on the field.”
Greenwood voiced his opinions while promoting a new ten-a-side competition which is taking place across the country, with a local event to be held at Five Ways Old Edwardians RFC.
The social rugby tournament, sponsored by Heineken, is open to all squads of 15 players to play in the new format of 10s rugby and will take place on Sunday, September 7.
“The Heineken 10s represents a lot of what rugby is all about to me,” Greenwood said. “It promises to be a fun, social and enjoyable day of rugby and the host clubs will benefit by receiving a legacy donation from Heineken.
“I have always enjoyed 10s as a format – you don’t have to be as fit as for 7s but you get a bit more ball time and space than full rugby.
“This will be a great tournament for players who may not have played for a while and a great way to kick start the season. Five Ways Old Edwardians will provide a great setting.”