'The U15s from my club in Manchester would beat us at the moment'
New boss Steve Diamond has accepted he needs to act quickly on the training ground if there is to be an upward swing in the fortunes of struggling Worcester in the coming months. Heading into this weekend’s round 14, the twelfth-place Warriors had conceded a whopping 66 tries, 16 more than bottom club Bath, and there was no respite to be found at league leaders Leicester as the visitors lost 36-16 and leaked five more tries, bringing their woeful tally up to 71.
Having arrived at Sixways on November 29 as lead rugby consultant, Diamond was given responsibility for the hands-on rugby department just eight weeks later, his January 26 appointment coinciding with the immediate departure of head coach Jonathan Thomas, who had recruited a battalion of new players for the 2021/22 campaign.
The ex-Sale boss will eventually succeed Alan Solomons as director of rugby at the end of the season but in the meantime, he has his hands full on the training ground trying to get the players he has inherited better connected in the defensive line.
Diamond claims he has been inundated with the names of players looking to join the Premiership club but his emphasis is on trying to bring the players he has got up to scratch as quickly as possible in the next few weeks before embarking on any squad overhaul.
“Working out the wheat from the chaff here is difficult and I need time to do that,” admitted Diamond prior to the latest Worcester setback at Leicester. “Players are put to me every day, every single day, and I look at them and we put them into the file and we do an analysis on them if we are looking at that position.
“But at the moment I am more interested in working with the lads we have got and making sure that the players who are at Worcester moving forward next year are here for the right reasons and they can do the job that we want them to do. That is going to take me six to eight weeks to do that… We have got to understand what the roles are, certainly the big lads in multi phases,” continued Diamond about the heat he will keep turning up on the training ground in the hope of quickly implementing a defensive improvement.
“After five or six phases the props and the locks, they find themselves in no man’s land and that is what we need to educate them on and get them a bit fitter so they can get to these desired places and do a job. To defend from lineout and scrum is reasonably easy but to defend when you are blowing, sucking in diesel after eight or ten phases and you are a tighthead prop, you have got to understand how to get into the line and be able to defend. More often than not it is getting in the line and being connected and we are not connected a lot of the time in phase play.
“Without sounding patronising, it’s not the top two inches (that is missing), it’s the top two feet. We have just got to get our basic plan in place and then when we have the ball keep the bloody thing. We gave three, four penalties away in the opposition 22 while in attack (against Northampton last weekend). They are freakish stats. We’re panicking, not thinking clearly under pressure and what we have got to do is replicate those scenarios in the training week, doing the drills and repping it and making sure it is second nature to them. It is a very simple formula.
“We have only got a certain amount of training time we can utilise but we have to prioritise things and the priority for me is the set-piece attack and defence. Worcester are second or third in the lineout stats, so they can win ball. That is not an issue. But equally, we have got to be able to withstand the pressure of the Sales and the Leicesters five metres out.
“That is where all our endeavours are at the minute. If you think about it, if you are a prop these days you have got to go for 40 minutes. You don’t go for the 80 so you have just got to be fit and switched on for 40 minutes. The conditioning we do will be altered slightly to be more akin to position as opposed to a generic conditioning process.
“The D, a lot of it is between the ears and people who are experienced are committing the same error, whether it is not coming up in the line or it is dropping underneath the line. Whatever it may be there is numerous of them. It is just repetition, repetition, repetition. We don’t need to vary it, we don’t need to bring 1,001 drills in.
“We just need to work with the senior players, which we are doing. They have bought into me arriving very well. We give them a plan which is put together with those players and they articulate it on the training paddock and in the games on Saturday. We can get better at it, we can’t be any worse because we have conceded 66 tries. The U15s from my local club in Manchester would beat is at the moment with that rate.”
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