Warriors one step from successive finals
May 1, 2009
Pat Sanderson will lead his Worcester side in Bourgoin, chasing successive Challenge Cup finals © Getty Images
Mike Ruddock's Worcester travel to face Bourgoin in the European Challenge Cup semi-final on Saturday, with the Warriors looking to the final as means of rescuing a disappointing season.
The Warriors will face a stern test in the home side, who are fresh from dumping London Irish out of the tournament at the quarter-final stage. Bourgoin also have the Heineken Cup ambitions of Wasps resting on their shoulders, with Ian McGeechan's side set to secure a place in next season's tournament as the seventh English side should Bourgouin go all the way.
Pat Sanderson will skipper the Warriors from the openside, with Tom Wood and Netani Talei completing a combative back-row as they look to secure their second successive Challenge Cup final. All Black Greg Rawlinson is one of four changes, starting in the second-row alongside Graham Kitchener.
In the backs, Loki Crichton misses out with an injury so Rico Gear takes the fullback jersey. Alex Grove and Dale Rasmussen are the centres, with Joe Carlisle partnering Ryan Powell at halfback.
Bourgoin field an all-international halfback pairing, with Clermont Auvergne bound scrum-half Morgan Parra joined by Benjamin Boyet in the No.10 jersey. Florian Denos, David Janin and Rudi Coetzee provide their ammunition out-wide. Blindside flanker Julien Frier takes the captain's armband in a back-row also featuring Wessel Jooste and Yann Labrit. Sylvain Nicolas and Mickael Forest, try scorers against the Exiles, have to make to with places on the bench.
"We expected far more from ourselves and believed we had a squad good enough to earn us Heineken Cup rugby solely on our league performances," said former England flanker Sanderson. "But, while that obviously did not happen, we have found some good form of late and turned some good sides over, and now we have a huge semi-final to look forward to."
"We face a big challenge at Bourgoin - on their day, they can be pretty formidable. They are a very big, strong and physical side, and while we know exactly what to expect from them, that doesn't make it any easier stopping them. It promises to be a fantastic physical contest and could well come down to who wants it the most on the day. It is incredibly important for us to make every possible effort to get to a second successive Challenge Cup final. We have not achieved what we would have liked this season, and this semi-final is a real lifeline for us."
Bourgoin: Florian Denos, David Janin, Matias Viazzo, Yann David, Rudi Coetzee, Benjamin Boyet, Morgan Parra, Arnaud Tchougong, Jean-Philippe Genevois, Karena Wihongi, Coenraad Basson, Camille Levast, Julien Frier (capt), Wessel Jooste, Yann Labrit
Replacements: Rémy Vigneaux, Pablo Cardinali, Thomas Genevois, Sylvain Nicolas, Mickaël Forest, Anthony Forest, Sebastien Laloo
Worcester: Rico Gear, Charlie Fellows, Alex Grove, Dale Rasmussen, Miles Benjamin, Joe Carlisle, Ryan Powell, Callum Black, Aleki Lutui, Darren Morris, Greg Rawlinson, Kitch Kitchener, Tom Wood, Pat Sanderson (capt), Netani Talei
Replacements: Shaun Ruwers, Chris Fortey, Will Bowley, James Collins, Matt Powell, Greg King, Michael Penn
The Heineken Cup proved once again just why it is the best domestic rugby competition in the world at the weekend and Monday Maul picks out some of the key talking points
The latest Week in Pictures brings you a selection of the best snaps from around the rugby world with scantily clad ladies, O'Driscoll and snow all featuring
"If I miss the first kick of the match, it shouldn't have any impact on the second. They are different entities." Tom Hamilton talks to Northampton Saints' Stephen Myler
It's time for those running Welsh rugby to stop trying to prevent its players heading to France and to start planning a future without them, writes Martin Williamson