Just when they thought their injury worries had eased Worcester’s preparations for this weekend’s crucial Premiership match with Bristol have been hampered by a cold virus that prevented four players from training yesterday.
Director of rugby Mike Ruddock had to do without Rico Gear and Sam Tuitupou – both of whom were too ill to turn up – and saw the participation of Pat Sanderson and Joey Carlisle curtailed when they were sent home by Warriors’ medical staff.
Add those players to the already extensive injury list and it seems Worcester are still some way from being given a clean bill of health with the league season about to get into full swing.
Warriors face relegation-threatened Bristol on Saturday, Newcastle the following weekend and then welcome Sale to Sixways on January 3 to complete the first half of a league campaign the direction of which still hangs in the balance.
At present they are seven points from the foot of the table, seven from the top half and the next fortnight will go a long way to shaping their ambitions – particularly if they can beat the bottom side Bristol.
Their chances of doing that will not have been helped, though, by yesterday’s turn of events.
With several first-team regulars absent with various pulls, strains and the odd break, Ruddock could have done without further absentees.
“All the players have had flu jabs but at this time of year there’s a lot of colds going around, we’ll just have to hope no one else goes down with it,” he said.
“Rico and Sam phoned in and Pat and Joey were sent home. Pat played with a heavy cold on Saturday and spent the weekend in bed.
“He turned up today but we wanted him to take some time.
“Hopefully everybody will be fine by Wednesday but you just can’t tell with these things.”
Even when he does recover there is no guaranteeing Gear will be ready in time to face Bristol. The former All Black was withdrawn in the first half of the European Challenge Cup victory over Bourgoin with a groin strain.
Ruddock still considers the 30-year-old to have no better than a 50-50 chance of returning inside a week and with Marcel Garvey and Miles Benjamin three months away from fitness, resources out wide could be stretched yet again.
At least they should be able to bring Chris Pennell and Chris Latham back into the fold. Australian international Latham has not played since straining knee ligaments against Newcastle last month and he is certain to step straight back into the full back role.
That would allow loan signing Eoghan Hickey to come into contention at fly half. The London Irish playmaker made his Warriors debut at full back on Saturday but with Joey Carlisle unconvincing in midfield the former Ireland A man could slot into his preferred role.
Youngster Carlisle kicked 17 points in the 27-6 victory that keeps Worcester on course for the quarter finals although he struggled to overcome terrible conditions and played according to an unusually conservative game plan, neither of which allowed him to show his attacking flair.
“There was a lot more good than bad in his game,” Ruddock said. “His goal kicking was excellent, he only missed one, we should take the positives out of that.
“He kicked for the line pretty well and some of his passing was very good. There were a couple he would have liked have given again but he is a youngster and every game he is learning things.” A big factor in whether Ruddock goes for Hickey’s experience or Carlisle’s potential will be whether the latter recovers from a back twinge that affected him late in Saturday’s game.