Worcester resume their Premiership campaign at Sale Sharks this weekend with an unusually high level of optimism.

Elimination means the Amlin Challenge and LV= cups are now off the agenda but that does not diminish the whiff of opportunity hanging around Sixways at the moment.

A club that is more used to working to disguise the stench of relegation is finally sensing something rather more pleasant as they try to sniff their way up the table.

Warriors currently sit in ninth place, which might not sound especially impressive but with 13 points separating them from Newcastle at the bottom Richard Hill’s men are looking forward rather than behind.

A bonus point victory at Edgeley Park tomorrow (Friday) night would put them level with Sharks and within striking distance of the top half and, whisper it quietly, a Heineken Cup place.

No one is getting carried away, certainly not veteran centre Dale Rasmussen, but even the old warhorse admits his team are in a good position.

“We have the luxury of not looking down so much,” the 34-year-old says. “There will still be an ounce of looking over your shoulder but the attitude of the majority of the squad is that we look up and we look to chase teams because it’s still fairly congested in the middle.

“One thing is looking up and going after those teams, the other is getting those shorter-term processes right and concentrating on the things we maybe haven’t been doing so well and which will be the difference between the games we have lost narrowly and the ones we have won.

“But I am very excited where we are at this stage of the season, it has given everyone a lease of energy to be positive, to be ambitious, to be enthusiastic about what we are doing.

“But at the same time we are realistic that we are not playing a picture perfect game, we have to work on this and that. Provided we do those things we can get those results.”

The most obvious failing is a lack of tries. Worcester have scored just 11 in 13 games, four fewer even than the beleaguered Falcons, while no-one has scored less points.

Steve Diamond’s Sale will be aware of that and intent on denying Warriors penalty chances as they seek to overturn the 17-12 defeat administered on the first day of the season.

“Sale are a different side now,” Rasmussen warned.” Even that day I thought they were good.

“We were happy to win but at the same time I thought they showed that they had a lot of good young forwards who could play with the ball. We were under the cosh a fair bit.”