Worcester director of rugby, John Brain, has assured talismanic prop, Tony Windo, he will be offered another contract when his existing deal expires after this season.
The 36-year-old, in his sixth year at Sixways, is enjoying a renaissance in his career and has been a key part of the Warriors pack that has established itself - and the club - as a dominant force in the Premiership.
But advancing years and an encroaching contractual deadline have led many to wonder if the former Gloucester loosehead was playing his last season in professional rugby.
Brain said: "Even at his age we would look to renew his contract. It is our intention to keep him at this club next year. I have spoken to him about that and told him he does not need to worry."
Worcester fans have come to regard Windo as one of their own despite the fact he was born in, raised in and represented Gloucester. Since he swapped Kingsholm for Sixways, however, he has led Worcester through several years of near-misses in
National One, to promotion and into the English top flight where he has reestablished himself as one of the country's top front-row performers.
Brain said: "He is a very important part of our squad - as a player but also as a person. He is one of the lead-ers in the club who has done a good job as a captain at various times. He is important to have round the place.
"If there has been one guy in our forwards who I wouldn't want to get injured it is Tony Windo. I would say that in front of anyone else in the pack."
While Windo will stay at least until 2007 his teammate Andre van Niekerk will not as his Working Holiday visa expires in June 2006. The abrasive hooker will have to return home to South Africa when his two-year stint ends.
Brain said: "We would like to keep Andre and he would like to stay. But it's a level playing field and we knew it would be the case when he came to us. He is not a full international and would have to have played in the last 15 months anyway so he will not be able to get a work permit.
"We have got Chris Fortey under contract for next year as well and will have to look at replacing Andre." ..SUPL: