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Worcester confirm 20 players with over 1,000 appearances between them are leaving

By Kim Ekin

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Worcester have said farewell to 20 players with more than 1,000 appearances for the Gallagher Premiership club between them. Those leaving Sixways alongside Chris Pennell, who has made 253 appearances for the club, are two more members of the 100 club, former captain GJ van Velze and tighthead prop Nick Schonert.

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Van Velze, 33, joined Warriors from Northampton in 2014 and captained the side to the Greene King IPA Championship title in his first season at Sixways. He made his 100th appearance for Worcester against Wasps at Sixways in January 2020 and his 110th and final appearance as a Premiership replacement against Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park last Saturday.

“This month brings me to the end of seven years at Worcester,” van Velze said. “I’m incredibly thankful and grateful to all the amazing Warriors supporters who make our sport what it is.

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“Thank you to all my coaches, performance and medical staff over the years for your care, effort and tireless dedication making it possible for me to enjoy this time. Thank you to all my teammates, as sharing special moments with a group you care about, is one of the most rewarding feelings… one chapter is closing, but I’m excited to open the next one.”

Schonert, along with Scotland international back-rower Cornell du Preez have been released early from their respective contracts and been given permission to speak to other clubs. Schonert, 29, arrived at Sixways from South African side Cheetahs in 2014 and made his debut against Bristol at the start of the 2014/15 Championship season.

He made his 100th appearance against Northampton in May 2019 and played his last match for the club – his 132nd – as a replacement at Newcastle last weekend. The other players who will be leaving the Warriors at the end of this month are back row Marco Mama, Samoa international wing Ed Fidow, tighthead prop Conor Carey, scrum-halves Jono Kitto and Michael Heaney, hooker and team captain Matt Moulds and back row forward Matti Williams.

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Scrum-half Luke Baldwin, who spent the past two seasons on loan with Dragons in the Guinness PRO14, will also leave Sixways at the end of his contract. Prop Callum Black and back row Matt Cox, who have each made more than 100 appearances for the club, announced earlier this week that are retiring from professional rugby.

Scrum-half Francois Hougaard (Wasps), full-back Nick David (Harlequins), fly-half Duncan Weir (Glasgow Warriors), utility back Scott van Breda (Jersey Reds), lock George Merrick and tighthead prop Richard Palframan (both Newcastle Falcons) have already confirmed moves to other clubs.

“I would like to thank all the players who are leaving for their commitment to the club this season in what has been a challenging year,” said head coach Jonathan Thomas. “In these unprecedented times players have needed to be adaptable and I can’t thank them enough for their professionalism.”

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Worcester confirm 20 players with over 1,000 appearances between them are leaving

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