Warriors set for Premiership return
September 2, 2011
If Warriors are to remain in the Premiership, much will depend on the boot of Andy Goode © Getty Images
Worcester Warriors will celebrate their return to the Aviva Premiership stage against Sale Sharks at Sixways on Saturday.
The Warriors were relegated from the top flight at the end of the 2009-10 season but bounced back at the first time of asking with victory over Cornish Pirates in the Championship finale sealing their promotion back to the main stage. In the hope of cementing their Premiership status, Warriors boss Richard Hill has bolstered his ranks significantly but in a break from the club's recent history, has opted for proven Championship players rather than big name signings.
Similar to their rivals, Sale are also an unknown quantity going into the new season with director of sport Steve Diamond having transformed the playing squad since taking charge earlier this year. A total of 18 players have made the switch to Edgeley Park with 26 players leaving via the exit door. Former Wasps boss Toby Hanks also been added to the coaching set-up and while a repeat of their 2006 Premiership-winning heroics looks beyond them, they will be determined to better their 10th place finish last season.
Worcester Warriors - Player to Watch: In a break from the norm, we name wing duo Marcel garvey and Miles Benjamin who between them scored a total of 48 tries in the league and cup last season. Can they keep that prolific form up this term?
Worcester Warriors- Team News: Giant lock James Percival, fullback Errie Claassens and scrum-half Shaun Perry are all handed their full league debuts. Garvey and Benjamin provide the firepower out wide while Alex Grove and Dale Rasmussen provide midfield steel. Fly-half Andy Goode returns to the top-flight and will team up with former Brive team-mate Perry at half back. Kai Horstmann will captain the team from the back row while Ed Shervington is given the nod at hooker and will partner Matt Mullan and Tevita Taumoepeau in the front row.
Sale Sharks- Player to Watch: Some many new faces to choose from in the Sharks' ranks with Argentine Joaquin Tuculet perhaps the most exciting. The 22-year-old was part of the Los Pampas side that won the Vodacom Cup in South Africa earlier this year and will be keen to make an impact on the Premiership stage.
Sale Sharks - Team News: Seven players will make their Premiership bow for the Sharks in the form of Andrew Higgins, Joaquin Tuculet, Joe Ward, Vadim Cobilas, Kearnan Myall, Fraser McKenzie and Mark Easter are the new men with a further three fresh faces - Tom Holmes, Scott Mathie and Charlie Amesbury - primed to join the action from the bench. Tuculet, formerly of Club de Rugby Los Tilos, Cobilas (VVA-Podmoskovye Monino) and McKenzie (Edinburgh) will be playing in top flight English rugby for the first time.
Key Battle: Two experienced No.9s will look to get their sides heading in the right direction at Sixways with Sale's Dwayne Peel and Worcester's Shaun Perry set for a right old tussle.
Trivia: The Warriors are yet to record a victory in the opening round in six previous Premiership campaigns
Stats: The Sharks' have not won away from home in the Premiership at anywhere other than Leeds since their 37-20 victory at Worcester in January 2009
"It is crucial, as the new boys in the league, to get off to a good start. We want to set a positive tone from day one."
"After working with him for six months, I can say that Vadim simply loves scrummaging - but this is a big step up for him."
Prediction: Sale look primed to start their new campaign with a win. Expect the forwards to see the bulk of the ball in an attritional battle up front with the formidable Sale pack prevailing come the final whistle.
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