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Welsh rugby enveloped in its latest existential crisis

As Wayne Pivac teeters on the edge of finding new gainful employment after a series of disappointing results, the wider-lens story tells of dysfunction and frustration

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Crisis club Worcester names team for its Premiership London opener

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Worcester have named the match day 23 for its opening game of the 2022/23 Gallagher Premiership season, a fixture at London Irish that few people thought they would be in a position to fulfil due to the cash crisis that has hit the up-for-sale club. The Warriors have been hit by sweeping negative headlines ever since it first emerged last month that HMRC had issued a winding-up petition for an unpaid tax bill.

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Assurances were given that players and staff would receive their end-of-August wages despite a cancelled pre-season friendly in Scotland, while Premiership Rugby officially confirmed at its September 1 new season launch at Twickenham that it would indeed start as a 13-team league.

However, even then there was no certainty the opener at Brentford would go ahead. Worcester players and staff took to social media the day after the function at English Rugby HQ to stress that they still hadn’t been paid and one player, academy scrum-half Ollie Wynn, revealed he had been made homeless and was relying on the generous Ollie Lawrence for a bed and a roof over his head.

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The anxiety over Worcester continued on in recent days amid public arguments between local politicians and the co-owners Colin Goldring and Jason Whittingham who are now looking to sell the rugby club, the same decision they have taken with their English League football club in Morecambe.

When push came to shove and it was time at noon on Friday to name the team to play at London Irish, a decision still hadn’t been reached by Premiership Rugby that the matches across the opening weekend would be going ahead following the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

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It was 12.48pm when Premiership Rugby provided an update that all three games originally scheduled for Saturday would go ahead as planned and it was a few hours later when the league’s governing body forwarded the Worcester XV and replacements on to the various media organisation.

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The press release read: “Worcester will give starts to four of their summer signings in Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership match against London Irish at the Gtech Community Stadium (kick-off 3pm).

“Openside flanker Cameron Neild, who has arrived at Sixways from Sale Sharks, will have the honouring of captaining the side on his Warriors debut as club captain Ted Hill has been ruled out by a hamstring injury.

“Russia international loosehead Valeriy Morozov and Italy hooker Hame Faiva, who have arrived from Bath Rugby and Benetton Rugby respectively, will pack down in the front row with Fergus Lee-Warner, who has joined from Western Force, making his Premiership debut at blindside flanker.

“A fifth new signing, England and former Sale Sharks loosehead prop Curtis Langdon, has been named among the replacements. Billy Searle will start at fly-half in place of Fin Smith who suffered a broken jaw in a tackle in training, and Scotland and British Lions wing Duhan van der Merwe misses out because of a quadriceps injury.

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“Six members of Saturday’s side – Jamie Shillcock, Perry Humphreys, Francois Venter, Gareth Simpson, Joe Batley and Matt Kvesic – also started in the Premiership Rugby Cup final against London Irish in May on Warriors’ last visit to Brentford.

“Six more members of the matchday squad – Ollie Lawrence, Alex Hearle, Murray McCallum, Andrew Kitchener, Rory Sutherland and Will Chudley – came off the bench in the final.”

WORCESTER (vs London Irish, Saturday): 15. Jamie Shillcock; 14. Perry Humphreys, 13. Ollie Lawrence, 12. Francois Venter, 11. Alex Hearle; 10. Billy Searle, 9. Gareth Simpson; 1. Valeriy Morozov, 2. Hame Faiva, 3. Murray McCallum, 4. Joe Batley, 5. Andrew Kitchener, 6. Fergus Lee-Warner, 7. Cameron Neild (capt), 8 Matt Kvesic. Reps: 16. Curtis Langdon, 17. Rory Sutherland, 18. Jay Tyack, 19. Graham Kitchener, 20. Tom Dodd, 21. Will Chudley, 22. Owen Williams, 23. Noah Steward.

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