Worcester Warriors director of rugby Gary Gold has challenged his players to earn the respect of their Aviva Premiership rivals.
Gold, who arrived at Sixways in January, is determined to bring stability to the Warriors as he embarks on his first full season in charge, and wants to see an improvement on their 11th-placed finish last term.
Exeter captain Gareth Steenson says the Chiefs have no intention of resting on their laurels as reigning Aviva Premiership champions this season.
He is confident he has the players at his disposal to be able to do so, but knows it will not be easy. Worcester have finished no higher than 10th in their nine Premiership campaigns since 2006, suffering relegation twice in that period.
“We just don’t want to be a club that’s fighting relegation, we want to be a club that’s respected — and I don’t think we are at the moment,” Gold told ESPN. “We want to be a club that can go toe-to-toe with the best and beat them.”
He added: “The players understand that now, that’s what we’ve been working on from a preseason point of view. They’ve got to understand that you’ve got to earn respect, and I’m not necessarily sure that we have done that over a number of years as a club.
“And that’s the challenge for the players and us as coaches — go out and earn respect again. No one’s going to give it to you for free, not in rugby.
“So, that’s the challenge and it’s an exciting challenge.”
If they are to survive this season then Worcester will need their best players on the pitch. Summer signing David Denton is at least a week away from full fitness, while Francois Hougaard is currently with the Sprinboks and Ben Te’o has been back in training for less than a week following the British & Irish Lions tour.
Ben Te’o, centre, will be crucial to Worcester’s survival hopes. David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images
It means the Warriors will likely face Newcastle in their Premiership opener next Friday night without all three.
“They’re all crucial players otherwise we wouldn’t have them at the club,” Gold said. “When the time comes that all three of them are available it will be a really good thing for us as a club, no question of a doubt.”
Te’o impressed on the Lions tour of New Zealand, forcing his way into the starting 15 for the first Test against the All Blacks and coming off the replacements’ bench in the decider. Worcester’s hopes could hinge on keeping the England centre fit, in-form and at the club.
“He’s [Te’o] a world-class player and the thing with world-class players is they step up to the stage and the big occasions,” Gold said. “He did that for us when we played Bath, he did that for us when we played Bristol. There were one or two other occasions as well and again he did that with the Lions.
“He’s had a nice long break now and I’m really excited that he’s enthusiastic to get back to rugby again.”
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