John Brain is adamant that unity at Sixways is vital to his Worcester team turning the corner in their frustrating Guinness Premiership season.
The Warriors director of rugby was characteristically honest and defiant in the wake of last night’s disappointing bonus-point defeat at the hands of Harlequins – a 20-27 reverse in which the visitors were handed three gift-wrapped tries.
“I suppose we’ll be totally written off,” he said after watching Warriors claim the lion’s share of territory and possession, yet fall short of the win that the bulk of the 10,197 crowd craved. “We’ve got nothing to lose now, really. The only crumb of comfort is that we’ve lost two games in the last five days, both of which we could quite easily have won. There’s no reason why we can’t win any game that we play – unfortunately, what let us down was that we made mistakes and Harlequins capitalised on them well.”
Brain praised his team’s attitude, endeavour, commitment and work rate, but – apart from the crucial errors in execution – agreed with Quins counterpart Dean Richards that the turning point came when Quins prop Mike Ross limped off with half-an-hour remaining and Warriors just two points in arrears. With only one prop replacement, the arrival of second row Nicolas Spanghero signalled uncontested scrums and Worcester’s attacking platform was neutered at a stroke.
The Sixways director of rugby is known for his support of a change in the laws to match those in France, where the team that triggers such a fundamental change in the balance of the match is penalised by the loss of a player. An attempt was made to agree an “entirely sensible modification” to the law in the Premiership at the start of the season, but it wasn’t brought in.
“We were completely dominant in that area,” Brain said of Warriors’ scrum power before referee Chris White’s hand was forced. “They had an injury and the game went to uncontested scrums. That’s all I’ve got to say about it. These things happen.”
And he declined to accept that the Premiership table told a false story.
“We’re at the bottom so, over the first 11 games, we’ve been the worst team. But I can say that we’re not losing games by much and we’ve got to make sure that we turn those margins round.”
On the squad’s confidence after four straight wins were followed by two narrow defeats, he gave a firm pointer to the fighting spirit he expects everyone at Sixways to show.
“The test is what really happens in the next few weeks. Harlequins hadn’t won for four games before tonight. It’s funny how things can turn around. We now know that, as a team, we have a clear choice – we can either fragment or stick together. It would be a shame if we fragmented. We’re capable of winning any game. We want the next five matches to be positive.”