Worcester limp into tomorrow’s potentially decisive Guinness Premiership match with Saracens with more than their pride bruised following last weekend’s humbling defeat at Bristol.
A swingeing injury situation has meant Mike Ruddock’s first team have not been able to train at all for the visit of resurgent Sarries and a game that could secure the club’s Premiership status.
If Bristol, who still trail Warriors by nine points despite Sunday’s six-try victory over Ruddock’s men, don’t pick up anything at London Irish, Worcester will require just a loss or try bonus from their third game in six days.
But needing it and getting it are two different things. While most of the men who flopped at the Memorial Stadium did not play any part in Wednesday night’s record 60-14 defeat at Harlequins, neither have they been able to do much by way of preparation.
Ruddock has effectively had to run two separate squads this week and even then, he has not been able to make the same demands of either that would go into a normal build -up.
As a result, he took the unusual step of giving the A-listers a day off on Thursday with a view to having enough standing upright for a team run today.
Indeed, all the group have managed have been a couple of analysis sessions. While Ruddock is reluctant to publicly chasten Premier Rugby or Quins for making his club play in midweek, he concedes that preparation for this weekend has been far from perfect.
“It has been compromised for a number of reasons,” he says. “Three games in six days is not ideal and injuries mean that even the bare 15 lads I kept back from the Harlequins game to train for Saracens, can’t do so because of the knocks and bumps and bruises from the weekend. And when you prepare, you want to have live bodies to do that against in attack and defence. We haven’t had that.
“Because we have been preparing two different teams, we have had to train at different times and look at different video and work through different moves. Our normal preparation has not been followed at all.
“It just might be a good thing - who knows? We will be fresh, we did it the other week against Gloucester with a barbecue and gave the guys a little time out. We looked really hungry and got out and gave a performance. Perhaps that might work again.”
Perhaps it might, but we are entering the realms of hope rather than expectation now. Saracens, after all, appear to have been galvanised by the upheaval in Watford when it was announced that more than 14 would be released at the end of the season due to an influx of South African imports following the arrival of Brendan Venter as head coach.
Since then, they have won three of their five games and registered victories over Sale, Bath and Wasps last time out. They have not, however, won away from home in the league since October.
And Ruddock maintains that while his team may be down, they are far from out: “They owe themselves and the supporters a performance after what happened at Bristol,” he says.
“We were down 17-15 after a bad start but we had a good patch before half-time and just after and I thought we were going to go on and win the game.
“Matt Jones got smashed in the lip, we had to reshuffle, Willie Walker went to ten and while he has been fantastic for us, he had a bad ten-15 minutes, made a couple of errors and Bristol capitalised on it. We did drop our heads at the end which annoyed me, so the boys will want to respond after that and show they have got belief and character and can play for the full 80 minutes.”
Jones has been stitched up this week and is expected to start with Walker at full back.
There are, though, only 50-50 chances for Will Bowley, Rico Gear and Netani Talei and doubts over Matt Mullan’s shoulder,