x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Sanderson issues rallying call ahead of season opener

The Warriors launch their league campaign at Northampton with the Worcester captain urging a more consistent and uncompromising approach.

Pat Sanderson, the Worcester captain, has told his players they must deliver this season. The Warriors launch their league campaign at Northampton today with Sanderson urging a more consistent and uncompromising approach. Despite reaching the European Challenge Cup final in 2008 and the competition's semi-finals last term, Worcester have struggled to make an impact on English rugby's flagship competition.

Most pundits see them as relegation candidates this time around - and England international Sanderson knows the pressure is on. "People say it is down to [rugby director] Mike [Ruddock] to get results, but it isn't. "It is down to us players to deliver now," he said. "If anything, we have perhaps let the club down the last few years. But our culture is changing, and I think we have to be more consistent and more uncompromising.

"If we can do that and produce the kind of rugby and brand we want to play, then we will win games. Leeds Carnegie kick off their Premiership return by hosting Newcastle. Last season's National League One champions parade a host of new arrivals, including former England scrum-half Andy Gomarsall, while Newcastle hand Premiership debuts to centre Gcobani Bobo and fly-half Jimmy Gopperth.

"We have had 19 weeks' preparation for the start of the season, and we go into the game in really good shape," said Leeds rugby director Andy Key. "We have recruited well and brought in players with a proven track record and experience of playing at the top level. We are excited about the challenge." Bath, having endured a testing summer with the lengthy bans handed out to former players Michael Lipman, Alex Crockett, Andrew Higgins and Justin Harrison, face a tough opener against west country rivals Gloucester at Kingsholm.

Head coach Steve Meehan, though, has been delighted with Bath's pre-season work, and four of their summer signings start - wing Matt Carraro, prop David Wilson, flanker Julian Salvi and No 8 Ben Skirving. Gloucester, now under the coaching direction of former Scotland scrum-half Bryan Redpath, also field some new recruits - including ex-Bath centre Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, Wales international fly-half Nicky Robinson and former Wasps wing Tom Voyce.

Sale director of rugby Kingsley Jones revealed the motivation behind Friday night's surprise 15-12 win over champions Leicester was fuelled by being written off as also-rans. "I'm happy to carry the tag of underdogs but I'm disappointed the players keep having it thrown in their face about the players who have left," said Jones who saw Sebastien Chabal head a summer exodus. "It's an insult to those guys, when you look at the quality in the room, and suggest we are going to be also-rans because a few guys have left."

* PA Northampton v Worcester, 4.15pm KO, Showsports 1 Gloucester v Bath, 7.30pm KO, Showsports 1