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22-man Worcester squad includes assistant coach and retired player

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Stricken Worcester have finally confirmed their team for Wednesday night’s first-round match as they begin their defence as Premiership Rugby Cup champions. The Warriors won last season’s final at London Irish but there were fears they might have to concede the opening game of their title defence as no team was announced as scheduled on Tuesday in advance of the match.

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Gloucester boss George Skivington remained hopeful that the game would still go ahead, confirming at his media briefing that the Worcester team manager had been in touch about getting car park spaces reserved at Kingsholm for the Premiership Cup fixture.

Now a Worcester match day 22 – one man short as there is no No19 on the bench – has finally been named at 10am on Wednesday, 22 hours after it was originally due to come out and less than ten hours before the scheduled 7:45pm start. So strapped are the Warriors for players, though, that 41-year-old coach Jonny Goodridge and retired ex-player Mat Gilbert are named on the bench in a squad that includes five guest players.

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A Worcester statement read: “Warriors academy backs and transition coach Jonny Goodridge and former player Mat Gilbert have come out of retirement to help the club fulfil Wednesday’s opening match in the defence of the Premiership Rugby Cup against Gloucester Rugby at Kingsholm.

“Goodridge, 41, had six seasons as a full-back with Gloucester in a career that also included stints with Leeds Carnegie and Bristol before he moved into coaching. Although it is nine years since Goodridge played competitive rugby he regularly takes part in Warriors training sessions and will make his club debut if he comes off the bench at Kingsholm.

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“Flanker Gilbert, who retired from playing at the end of last season, has also been named as a replacement at Gloucester. The former England Deaf international last played for Warriors in 2016 after a two-season stint at Sixways and he also played for Llanelli, Mogliano, Bath, Hartpury and Cinderford before he retired in April to run his own pizza business.

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“Gilbert is one of five guest players in the match day squad joining lock Ollie Curry, back row forwards Lewis Barrett and Ethan Parkins and replacement hooker Will Tanner. England U18 international back row Theo Mayall will make his Warriors debut having joined the Three Pears Warriors academy this season.

“Wing Alex Wills and tighthead prop Will Couch, who are also newcomers to the senior academy, are in line for their debuts off the bench. Lock Graham Kitchener, who came off the bench in the Gallagher Premiership matches against London Irish and Exeter Chiefs, is the only player in tonight’s matchday squad to have played this season.”

Seven-try Gloucester went on to win the match 49-21 with the fit-again Jake Polledri playing 67 minutes in his first competitive match in 22 months. For Worcester, who were level 14-all at the break, Gilbert was a 51st-minute substitution while Goodridge was an unused replacement.

Worcester (vs Gloucester, Wednesday)
15. Tobi Wilson; 14. Harri Doel, 13. Oli Morris, 12. Will Butler (capt), 11. Tom Howe; 10. Charlie Titcombe, 9. Ollie Wynn; 1. Kai Owen, 2. Finn Theobald-Thomas, 3. Jack Owlett, 4. Ollie Curry, 5. Graham Kitchener, 6. Theo Mayell, 7. Lewis Barrett, 8. Ethan Parkins. Reps: 16. Will Tanner, 17. Lewis Holsey, 18. Will Couch, 20. Mat Gilbert, 21. Tom Miles, 22. Alex Wills, 23. Jonny Goodridge.

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