John Brain moved swiftly last night to quash speculation that No 2 Andy Keast had left Worcester to make way for Nigel Mellville, the former Gloucester rugby coach.
The Warriors director of rugby refuted any suggestion that Melville was being brought in to work over the coaches that had so success-fully cemented the club?s place in the Premiership.
Brain said that his own position was not affected by the removal of Keast, who joined the club in January 2002, and ?categorically? says Melville is not joining the club. Moves were already underway to find a new coach ?to work with me.?
Keast - one of the men who helped Warriors into the upper echelons of English club rugby and helped ensure them stay there - was, we are told, dismissed as head coach as a result of player power. While it might have been one of the hardest decisions Brain has had to make at Sixways, he has never shirked a tough call. He had once descibed his right-hand man as ?the driving force behind the team.?
Keast, a former British Lions coach, has left apparently because players resented his abrasive management style. Too much scar tissue had built up between the coach and his players.
While no-one at the club doubted his tactical acumen, his relationship with certain players had become unstable. One player has been reported as saying: ?I know that the squad found Andy?s style difficult to handle. On the analytical side, he is spot on. However, he lost a lot of respect because of the way he treated the players. I think it?s fair enough to discipline players if they are messing around but Andy was just too abrasive.
?I know that the players would not follow Andy if he moved to a different club and it probably got to the stage where players would think twice about coming to Worcester if they knew Andy was there.?
Keast was unavailable for comment last night but a statement from the club said: ?Following an end-of-season review of the rugby coaching and management, Worcester Rugby Club and head coach Andy Keast have mutually agreed that Andy will leave the club to pursue other interests.?
Warriors? chairman, Cecil Duckworth, said: ?Andy has made a highly-significant contribution to the life and success of the club over the last three seasons, for which we are very grateful. We wish him every success in the future.?
Brain said: ?Andy Keast is a world-class coach and his rugby knowledge is encyclopaedic. It may say something about me because I worked very hard to get Andy to the club despite the fact that he?s a much more experienced coach than me. That could have undermined me. But all that ever concerns me is what?s best for Worcester not John Brain.?